REVIEW: The Last of the Dragons (Lifeline Theatre)

A good time for ALL ages

 

TheLastoftheDragons4 LR

review by  K.D. Hopkins

As I entered the Lifeline Theatre on a freezing Chicago afternoon, I thought back to the first time I saw real children’s theatre. It was a production of Peter Pan in the early 70’s. I was a cynical kid and did not give in easily to fantastic imagination. Fast forward to 2010 – I watched while what seemed to be an endless stream of children were herded into the cozy theatre. They were a well-behaved bunch and I sensed more sophisticated than most children about theatre. That was a bonus as we settled in for an hour of fun with a really great lesson about individuality and tradition.

TheLastoftheDragons3 LR The Last of the Dragons is a world premiere musical adaptation from a novel by Edith Nesbit. It is of interest to note that Ms. Nesbit was a woman considered ahead of her time in Victorian England. Not only was she an accomplished author but also a political activist involved in creating the precursor to England’s Labour Party – the Fabian Society. The central character of Princess Andromeda (nicknamed Andy) is a girl possessing a strong mind who has decidedly unfeminine pursuits according to her father, the king. She is an accomplished swordswoman, wears her hair short, and likes to dress in trousers. Like Victorian England, women’s roles were defined clearly and if one expected a comfortable life, she would willingly adapt to societal mores.

Princess Andy is played by Anne Sears. She is fresh faced and appealing as the gutsy princess. Her comic gifts show brilliantly in the scene where she is being coached in princess behavior and attire. Mike Ooi plays the King with just enough bombast and humor. Ooi possesses a fine bass voice that resounds in the song “Tradition”. This production does not talk down to the audience just because it is meant for children. There is a layered dynamic between the characters of the King and Princess Andy. They engage in swordplay in the opening scene that hints at the King’s indulgence and acceptance of his daughter’s skills and individuality.

Cast member David Fink is a triple threat as the hilarious D’Artagnan, Chamberlain, and as the Dragon. Mr. Fink has been in previous Lifeline Theatre adaptations (including my all time favorite childhood book “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile”), and here his role of Dragon breaks your heart as the Dragon who is a pacifist and longs to have friends rather than being feared. It’s a fine and subtle lesson about fear and prejudice as traditions that need to be broken in every generation. His characterization of the parrot D’Artagnan had everyone in the audience chuckling. He is physically nimble and obviously knows how to project emotion in spite of a giant papier-mache head.

Kudos is due to Scott Allen Luke as Prince Stanley. He is the perfect counterpoint to Princess Andy’s physicality. His character is studious and henpecked by his mother the Queen played with flair by Mallory Nees. Prince Stanley is told, “You must be more like a prince and less like you”. It is another good lesson in appearances and tradition no matter the time. Glass slippers, white horses, and dwarves can easily be seen as the cool shoes, toys, and school cliques in our time.

The staging of The Last of the Dragons is genius in its simplicity. The young audience can focus on the characters rather than lots of set dressing. The swordplay is not too violent and there are smart double entendres for everyone to enjoy. Director Dorothy Milne has managed to project the just right mix of whimsy and morality lessons with this production. Lifeline’s tagline is ‘big stories up close’ and they continue to be true to their word. The staging of the Dragon’s lair is funny and just scary enough. The Dragon is a beautiful mix of brocade and voile managing to cleverly encompass the breadth of the stage.

The music and lyrics are by Mikhail Fiksel, Kyle Hamman, and Alex Balestrieri. It is easy and fun to sing. In fact, I found myself humming the finale “Fly With A Dragon” as I walked home. David Bareford adapts this play from the story written by Ms. Nesbit, who collaborated with Kenneth Grahame of “Wind in the Willows” fame on her ‘Dragon’ stories toward the end of her colorful and turbulent life. The story is a fun fantasy that the kids will probably act out at home like any good childrens theatre or book. After I left, I recalled another theatre experience from the later 70’s called Warp by Stuart Gordon at the Organic Theater. This fine production of The Last of the Dragons is great preparation for more theatre in a child’s future whether they are three or ready for AARP.

If you have not yet been to a Lifeline Theatre production, this is an excellent one to attend – and see for yourself why this theatre company has been a long-time anchor in the Glenwood Arts District and a precious resource in the neighborhood as a whole.

 

Rating: ★★★

The Last of the Dragons runs through February 21st 2010. Shows are Saturdays at 1:00PM and Sundays at 11:00AM and 1:00PM. The Lifeline Theatre is located at 6912 Glenwood Avenue in Rogers Park. Call 773-761-4477 or visit www.lifelinetheatre.com for more information on Lifeline’s productions and other fun programs for children and adults alike. See you in the aisles!

 

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Flex-pass for multiple Rogers Park theater companies!

Rogers Park Theatres Offer 2008-2009 Season Flex Pass

$50 to See Four Plays at Four Theatres; Dining Discounts at Local Eateries

What a great, great idea!  I know that often potential theatre-goers are wary of being “tied down” to specific dates, which is the m.o. of most theatre subscriptions. (on a personal note, being on the board of my condo, I am very aware that people feign away from being on committees for fear of being “tied down” to a meeting schedule).  But now theatre-devotees have an offer they can’t refuse – you can go to various theatres without being shackled to specific dates, specific shows and specific number of seats for the performance.  Brilliant!

The participating Rogers Park theatres, all in the Glenwood Avenue Arts District, include Bohemian Theatre Ensemble, Lifeline Theatre, The Side Project, and Theo Ubique(Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch to designate the Side Project as part of the Glenwood Arts district, but who am I to question).  The flexible subscription pass will be valid for any of these theatre’s productions from September 15, 2008, to July 1, 2009. This foursome garnered nine non-Equity Jeff Awards this season alone, and wanted to share this commitment to excellence in this neighborhood with the community, by offering this discounted pass with up to 40% savings over regular single tickets.

Where: The $50, four-show pass – good for one adult or kids show, anytime during the season, from each of the four participating theaters (offer does not include participant shows in venues outside Rogers Park) – is available at each theatre’s box office, and at www.thesideproject.net/tickets.php The pass is business card-sized to be kept throughout the season, to be punched when used at each theatre, and displayed at each restaurant when a discount is requested.

Who: Participating theatres and 2008-2009 season offerings include (call or visit the Web sites for run dates and details):

boho_thumb Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (BoHo) at the Heartland Studio Theater, 7016 N. Glenwood Ave., 773-791-2393, info@bohotheatre.com, www.bohotheatre.com“Bernarda Alba – A Musical,” “Playing with Fire (After Frankenstein),” “The Tempest.”

 

 

 

lifeline_logo Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave., 773-761-4477, info@lifelinetheatre.com, www.lifelinetheatre.com – MainStage shows “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” “Mariette in Ecstasy,” “Busman’s Honeymoon,” and KidSeries shows “Duck for President,” “Snowflake Tim’s Big Holiday Adventure,” “Flight of the Dodo,” “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.”

 

sideproject Side Project Theatre Company, 1439 W. Jarvis Ave., 773-973-2150, tickets@thesideproject.net, www.thesideproject.net“Cut to the Quick,” one-acts including “Static/Cling,” “Splinters and Shrapnel,” “Splayed Verbiage (and other compound fractures): 10-Minute Plays with No Time to Waste” (fall 2008); and “The Bird Sanctuary,” “The Rocks” and a second “Splayed Verbiage” (spring 2009); plus Rascal Children’s Theater titles “The Nerdy Girl and the Intergalactic Dog,” “Tam Lin,” “Spinning Yarns: A Journey Through Legends.”

theoubique Theo Ubique at the No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave., 773-743-3355, freddyanz@gmail.com, www.theoubique.org – “Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night,” “Evita.”

 

 

Dining Discounts: Rogers Park restaurants near these theatres are partnering to offer dining discounts to pass purchasers for the season through July 1, 2009. The Heartland Café (“good wholesome food for the mind and body”), 7000 N. Glenwood Ave., is offering a 15% discount to audiences with a flex pass; Gruppo di Amici (Roman style Italian food), 1508 W. Jarvis Ave., and the Morseland (“good eats, nice beats”), 1218 W. Morse Ave., will extend 10% off to patrons (with flex pass). In addition, Charmers Café/Dagel & Beli [sic] (coffeehouse and bagels), 1500 W. Jarvis Ave., will offer $2 off one order with flex pass (one visit only-not season long). Theo Ubique offers dinner and show packages at the No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave.

Glenwood Avenue Arts District, in the heart of Rogers Park, features numerous artist studios, music venues, theaters and restaurants and is fast becoming known as a vibrant and unique arts destination, which was described in the Daily Herald“Rogers Park, on the north edge of Chicago, offers an urban vibe, intimate but exciting theater, a variety of live music, good restaurants and largely free parking, not to mention glorious Lake Michigan beachfront open to all.” The theatres in this area frequently are nominated for, and win, Jeff Awards (www.jeffawards.org), and are often picked to perform at the Chicago Park District’s Theater on the Lake, “best of the best” summer season.

Last word: Again, I think this is a great idea.  I would suggest looking into getting Raven Theatre on board (maybe they already have), as well as looking into the type of flex pass the Raven uses – one that never expires.  I suggest this because I assume that most people will use all of their flex-pass tickets during the first year anyway – but offering tickets with no expiration date just makes the deal that much sweeter.