REVIEW: Raven Theatre’s “Patchwork USA”

Patchwork USA Provides Simply Told Stories

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Raven Theatre presents:

Patchwork USA

by Michael Menendian and Eugene Fern
directed by
Michael Menendian
thru December 13th (ticket info)

reviewed by Paige Listerud

Probably no other children’s show this season is as simply produced as Patchwork USA, a world premiere from Raven Theatre’s Children’s Program, directed by Michael Menendian. Based on short children’s stories by Menendian and Eugene Fern, no frills sets, props, and costumes mean greater demands from the actors in terms of basic, direct storytelling for their very young audiences.

All of the actors provide accessible and approachable performances to encourage audience participation. McNeil and Sanchez particularly soon found favorites among children who regularly responded to questions designed to engage them in the characters’ dilemmas. Esteban Cruz stands out in his ability to animate his storytelling with enthusiasm and mischievous humor. His Lil’ Devil from “How I Love to Read” is especially memorable, as is the young boy from “The Happiest Day of My Life” who lives in anticipation of his first professional baseball game.

All stories fulfill the children’s program mission to instill an appreciation of differences in others, whether those differences refer to ethnic background, ability, or self-expression. The overall tone is one of building basic respect for one’s fellows, a tender blossom that can be easily run over in the holiday rush. This children’s show provides a real alternative for families looking for more wholesome entertainment this season.

Some stories may still benefit from further development. Perhaps reconsidering the story-within-a-story framework for some tales would provide more accessibility for its intended audience. If anything, more engagement, not less should be encouraged.

Rating: ★★½

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