The small (but mighty in effort) IMAGINARY BEASTS theater company fuses puppet arts to human movement, gestural language to text, and story to myth for a feast of images, sounds, music and laughter. If you’ve attended any of their entertaining WINTER PANTOs, you know their wildly creative approach to theater making. Now they’ve turned their imaginative spirit toward Thornton Wilder. This being the 75th anniversary of OUR TOWN, BEASTS founder/director Matthew Woods was reminded of a set of miniatures by Wilder he saw as a student (written when Wilder, himself, was a college student).
Thereby, LITTLE GIANTS, The Miniature Plays of Thornton Wilder came into being at Imaginary Beasts (playing @BCA through April 27th) and the Beasts provide the most delightful settings for the little gems. (Not since Allston’s Double Edge Theater departed for western Mass, have I seen such elegant ensemble work.)
From Molly Kimmerling’s powerful muse to William Schuller’s destructive mermaid, from Amanda Goble’s fragile Moth of Versailles to Cameron Cronin’s outrageous Mme. Flamenco, the singular characters dance in your head long after the evening ends. The stories linger, wandering about in your consciousness. You marvel at how Jill Rogati’s wooden boy elicits such an emotional response. You giggle, remembering how wonderfully exasperating Poornima Kirby is, obsessing about her tea.
You fear for Amy Meyer’s wounded prince, bound up by Kimmerling and Kamelia Aly—who slowly knot a swath of silk (which gloriously unfurls in another story to form the undulating ocean)—and you anticipate with dread, who Tim Hoover, as Mozart’s mysterious visitor, really is.
But my favorite vignette was devised by Woods and the company, not Wilder. This charming prelude to the Mozart piece introduces Gabriel Graetz as an exacting conductor and Beth Pearson as a reluctant singer entangled in a monumental struggle to elicit her performance. For one thing, she’d rather be sleeping under her box. For another, she lacks confidence. For another, she won’t open her lips. Their ornamentation on a theme is simply priceless.
Everyone shines in multiple roles, subtly lit by Erich Hagen and adorned in gorgeous, inventive costumes by Cotton Talbot-Minkin. The centerpiece of Woods’ set (at one end of the playing area) is a large, raked circular platform which can become a stage or a hill (for Cronin to tumble down) or upended, a barricade, a sun, any number of possibilities. Sound, too, is just as important, from the crack of the commedia dell’arte (slap) stick to the sweep of a dulcimer to the strains of THE MAGIC FLUTE, every musical choice enhances the magic. Do not miss it!