For half a century, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time has been a beloved classic, read by generations and capturing the hearts and imaginations of young readers who embraced its numerous messages. While the story itself reflects many of the anxieties of the era in which it was written (fears of alien abduction, cold war sensibilities), it is also a story of growing up with all of the fears and concerns that torment every generation regardless of the political and cultural surroundings.
In keeping with their rich history of staging plays which prompt thought and discussion, all for One closes its 2016-17 season with A Wrinkle in Time, and it was an incredibly gutsy move. The story is decidedly outside the box, and many characters are creatures outside of our experience. But the trickiest part is making those science fiction aspects work in the intimate space of their ArtsLab home venue. As it turns out, a black box theater is perfect for this show, thanks in no small part to director Jeff Salisbury's expertise. Salisbury, afO's technical director, navigates the spooky elements of the story very effectively through some pretty impressive sound effects, lighting effects and a video screen place high over the stage. And there's one costume change that is particularly awe-inspiring thanks to those effects.
But while the creepy alien creatures and voice effects are very well-done (and the performances by those actors are remarkable), the power of the book and the show rests on the shoulders of the three main characters - Meg, her brother Charles and Meg's schoolmate Calvin - who go on an unlikely journey to find Meg and Charles' father who has been missing for a year. Meg feels like an outcast among her peers partially because, as the child of two scientists, she is preternaturally bright but also because there are whispers about her father's absence. Protective of Charles, who is also a bit outside the box emotionally and intellectually, she seeks to find her place in one world while finding her father in another.
With that at the heart of the story, the success of this staging of A Wrinkle in Time is largely due to the talented trio of young actors who fill those key roles. Alanna Gough as Meg perfectly portrays the prickliness of a teenage girl on the verge of womanhood. Reed Maibach as Calvin also does a nice turn as the kid who seems to have it all (as Meg so often reminds him) but also wrestles with his own insecurities and desire to fit in. Gough and Maibach also nicely play off each other as it becomes apparent that a little spark might exist between their characters, which each is awkwardly realizing. But the real wonder of the show is Elias Kroeker who, as the little and somewhat peculiar Charles Wallace Murry, brings a remarkably poised performance to life. It would be hard to overstate how many lines this young home-schooled third-grader has, and given Charles's own quirky intelligence, many of those lines are very sophisticated and even funny. Kroeker was clearly at ease on the stage and brings a lot of charm to his efforts.
For fans of the book or for those who have never read it, A Wrinkle in Time is a fun and inspiring show.
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October 19 • The Clyde Theatre