A fanciful and imaginative set, some spiffy puppetry and two adults who convinced me they were young siblings were the highlights of "Plastic Drastic," the new play at the Rose Theater.
The world-premiere production also has an admirable message: We don't need as many things as we think we do, and we don't need to buy new things when the old ones get scuffed or we grow tired of them. And we really shouldn't fill our landfills — and waterways — with things that can be reused.
But that message, as important as it is, was conveyed with a somewhat heavy hand and through indie music that could have been scaled back. The sound was at its best when it gave life to inanimate objects: a flock of albatrosses, crashing waves, a mournful sea. It fell short when songs were supposed to move the plot along, in part because of some atonal music and in part because you couldn't always understand the words, some of which were fairly large for small viewers.
Elena Araoz, a New York playwright who was also the show's director, has been working for more than a year with Rose staffers to create the play. The script, loosely based on "The Odyssey" by Homer, has a lot going for it. Much of it is in rhyme, and it has a lot of clever and funny dialogue amid its serious subject, including an ongoing riff between adventurous brother (Robby Stone) and more pragmatic sister (Molly McGuire) about what dad and mom would say.
What: Children's play
When: 7 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through March 13
Where: Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St.
Tickets:$18 general admission; $14 discount ticket vouchers available at area Hy-Vee stores. Reservations required.
Information: rosetheater.org or 402-345-4849
It gets repetitive when it drives home its ecological point: It only took a couple of mentions for me to understand that everyone is responsible for a clean planet and that plastic trash doesn't ever die, for example.
I believe those two statements, by the way, so I'm not saying this through any hostility to the play's valuable lessons. As an adult viewer, however, perhaps I'm not being totally fair — teachers say you have to repeat things numerous times for children, the play's primary audience.
The bulk of the play takes place on the ocean, with the siblings on a raft seeking their parents after a storm destroys their house and mom and dad go missing. They run into numerous problems due to floating trash (some of which once belonged to them) and melting icebergs in a tepid sea, a reference to global warming. Though it's not mentioned by name, the kids' eventual stopping place is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a giant, real-life collection of mostly plastic debris.
Stone and McGuire hit all the right notes as squabbling sibs who lovingly support each other when it counts. Timothy Siragusa, as a mariner who's trying to clean up the mess, deserves kudos, too. Siragusa also is the voice for the play's most spectacular puppet, a towering plastic doll. Kids at a Friday afternoon preview loved it, along with three giant albatross puppets and other figures, all operated by puppeteers Anna Jordan, Joshua Lloyd Parker, Kimberlee Stone and Shannon Wade.
Justin Townsend's set ingeniously uses lots of blue plastic to portray the ocean and puts the siblings' raft on top of a short scaffold on wheels. Puppeteers roll it across the stage when the kids are facing rough waters. That was absolutely perfect. Black-lit neon creatures and jellyfish made from gauze and balloons also are cool. And the garbage patch is so colorful it looks deceptively inviting.
"Plastic Drastic," while not perfect in spots, still does what many plays at the Rose do best: It offers lots of fodder for discussions between kids and adults. No matter what you think of global warming or recycling, there's nothing wrong with a good conversation about our shared home.
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