‘The Stowaway’ (Photo: Trusty Sidekick Theater Company; Buatti-Ramos Photography)
By April Stamm
Start ‘em young. Maybe not what the masses consider when the thinking about Shakespeare, but it’s certainly something that the Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, the Classic Stage Company and I believe. When we’re talking young, we can do better than the preteen set; let’s go for Shakespeare for five to eleven-year-olds! Trusty Sidekick Theater Company and the CSC’s production of The Stowaway: Or How the Mistress Quickly Went from Madcap to Majestic does just that in a clever, energetic and fulfilling way.
Pulling plot and character concepts from several of Shakespeare’s plays including The Tempest, Twelfth Night, and even a touch of Macbeth, The Stowaway takes the tots on a journey across the sea with Dull (Ashley Renee Thaxton). The former Duchess of the Island of Hockey Puck, Dull has been exiled and her twin brother Dennis (Rowan Magee), former Duke, has mysteriously vanished. To escape the evil Bullcalf (Neil Tyrone Pritchard) who has usurped their thrones and done these dastardly deeds, Dull hides away on the ship The Mistress Quickly, bound for Illyria.
Onboard, Dull meets the ship’s ragtag crew including its captain, a crab named Captain Pinch (spoiler alert: Rowan Magee). As can be expected as a tale spun from the Bard’s cloth, the ship encounters a terrible storm and wrecks, leaving the crew shipless and unfortunately back on the Island of Hockey Puck. There Dull musters her courage to face the new evil Duke, discovers what happened to her brother, and reasserts her and her brother’s leadership.
Sounds like a lot, and it is. The plot has a whole lot going on for single-digit audience members (and some of the grownups); there are twists, turns, mistaken identities, disguises, witches and spells. It’s all very, well, Shakespearean. While hard to fully grasp, especially by the youngest, the plot washes over them as they are enthralled by the songs, dances, engaging characters, puppets (Spencer Lott, puppet design), language and interactive nature of the production. However, it’s the use of language that really sets this production apart. The Stowaway’s script (Drew Petersen, writer, director) is a tapestry of actual lines and small portions of speeches from Shakespeare’s plays, general Elizabethan/Jacobean verbiage/language, and modern speech. It is dense, but delightfully woven in a way that works for the kiddies: they get it.
Rounding out the experience, the music and dance are silly, toe-tapping and a blast for the kids. Drew Petersen’s original music is romping, taking some songs and lines from Shakespeare and incorporating multiple musical styles. The kids are encouraged to sing along and even move along to Sabrina Jacob’s lively and swashbuckling choreography.
Giving kids and their adults alike a performance full of energy, creativity and craft is no easy task. Doing it all by pulling from one of the greatest, and many think most challenging playwrights of all time, is a big undertaking. The Stowaway seamlessly delivers humor, heart and a clear yet appropriate reverence for the Bard — a theatrical gift for audiences of all ages.
The Stowaway: Or How the Mistress Quickly Went from Madcap to Majestic
A Trusty Sidekick Theater Company Production
Classic Stage Company
136 E 13th Street, NYC
November 6 – November 19, 2017
April Stamm is a theatre, food, and lifestyle journalist. She is a regular contributor to The Broadway Blog and Edge Media Network and is a Chef Instructor at the International Culinary Center.