Gary Grinkle's Battles With Wrinkles And Other Troubles In Mudgeville
Watching Second Youth Family Theatre's visually delicious theatrical confection 'Gary Grinkle's Battles With Wrinkles and Other Troubles in Mudgeville' is like seeing a children's book come to life
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., March 10, 2006
Gary Grinkle's Battles With Wrinkles and Other Troubles in Mudgeville
Dougherty Arts Center, through March 19
Running Time: 35 min
Second Youth Family Theatre has taken on some challenging pieces of theatre in the past, and what a challenging piece of theatre this is. Writing in verse is not easy, even writing in the seemingly simple Seussian verse so familiar from childhood, the verse form Stefan Graves Lanfer uses in this tale of Mudgeville, which seems to be Seuss-inspired as well. Everyone in Mudgeville stays inside. Gary Grinkle can't get the wrinkles out of his clothes, so of course he doesn't want to be seen in public. Maggie Magoulish doesn't want to damage her shoes. Arnold J. Arnold is waiting for his favorite TV show. And Melissa B. Little is afraid I mean seriously, obsessively, compulsively afraid of germs.
That's the setup, and what a whirling dervish of a setup it is. Director Whitney Presley has the six actors moving all around the Dougherty Arts Center stage, changing two-sided houses and picture cubes and props, assembling myriad Mudgeville locations as the action flows quickly around it, through it, and over it. The story is always in motion, and the actors express their characters broadly, both physically and vocally, with Pam Friday's costumes embodying their physicality as well as the Seussian flavor of the piece. All the actors wear large, fuzzy headpieces of differing colors and have furry balls of varying types on their shoes, as well as glitter on their faces and light, feathery things sticking out all over the place. They bounce and pose and flounce and pose some more. They look like they've stepped right out of Green Eggs and Ham and onto the stage, which is constantly coated in bright pinks, blues, reds, purples, yellows, and greens. One of them has the biggest, strangest butt I can recall seeing on a stage.
It's bright, it's fast, and it's loud as well. It has to be, as the action is accompanied by an underscoring of sound that ultimately enhances the sense of watching a children's book come to life. As with writing verse, speaking verse can be challenging, but the actors handle it quite well, especially Leslie Hollingsworth, who as Maggie Magoulish seems to inhabit the storybook world of the play in a very complete way. Despite the largeness and the loudness of it all, the 7-year-old who accompanied me and who talked with me all the way to the theatre and all the way home but was totally silent during the play told me afterward who everyone was and what happened to them.
Speaking of happenings, you might be wondering what happens to the folks in Mudgeville. Well, I wouldn't want to give anything away, so suffice it to say that a story about contact and community is rare to come across these days, and almost as rare is coming across a visually delicious theatrical confection like this.