Sunday, February 8, 2015

Olympia Family Theater’s Monster Under the Bed

No such word as can’t

Ryan Hendrickson as the Monster Dad and Ben Coppin as Ben.
Photo -  Dinea de Photo

The Monster Under the Bed at Olympia Family Theater is a high-energy comic romp for kids and adults presented with OFT’s usual flair for fun.
When we go to children’s theater we expect to see adaptations of children’s books, but that is not what you’ll see in this show, because Monster is not an adaptation but an original play by British playwright Kevin Dyer (named Best Play for Children and Young People by Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.)
Like such classics as The Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it is a children’s story for adults. Much of the humor is aimed at adults, with sly references to the above-mentioned classics and others such as the tic-tocking of the clock swallowed by the crocodile in Peter Pan.
On the night I attended there were more adults than children in the audience, and it was the adults whose laughter rang out most boisterously. But it is fun for children too. How could they not be overjoyed at actors in outlandish costume rushing madly about and saying the silliest things?
Dyer’s clever script turns one of childhood’s most dreaded fears on its head—the fear of monsters under the bed or in the closet or wherever monsters may lie in wait to come out and eat little children in their sleep. In this case the monsters (two of them, the Monster Under the Bed and his Dad) make friends with Ben, and one of them even goes to school one day in Ben’s place. Amazingly nobody recognizes that the monster is not Ben, even though the school teacher and others do remark that he doesn’t quite look like himself and he smells a bit dusty.
One of the most delightful things about this play is Dyer’s inventive use of language. For example: there’s mention of an elepotomus, apparently a hybrid elephant and hippotomus, and borrowing from The Three Little Pigs, “huffle and puffle” and blow the house down.
One of the most enjoyable conversations takes place between Ben and Dad Monster:
Dad Monster: I eat . . .
Ben: Children.
Dad Monster: No, jammy crusts you’ve dropped under kitchytable and squashygrapes that have rollied under the wash-sheen. Fings from the fridgillator when you’ve gone. I finish off the milky mushy bit you leave in your brecklefast bowly. But today I got whole bowlyful.
Ben is very nicely played by Ben Coppin. Although he has been away from the stage for almost three years he has been in three plays in the past six months. He certainly makes an impression. Nice job of becoming a sweet kid.
Harrison Fry turns in one of his wildest and funniest performances ever as the monster. With his crazy dance moves and his exuberant running and climbing, he wore me out. As the monster’s dad, Ryan Hendrickson is gruff and scarily funny, and Ted Ryle is outstanding as Ben’s dad and in many other roles.
Carolyn Willems Van Dijk gets to show off her dance skills and rubber-faced face-making as Celine, the girl in love with Ben, as does Katrina Groen as Anthony. And Amy Shephard, a lovely young woman, is quite believable as the young boy Vince, Ben’s best friend. I have to say that in previous reviews for shows at Harlequin among others I have commented on Shephard’s incredible energy, but in this ungodly energetic romp she is relatively sedate, if you discount a lot of running around—relatively sedate for her and in comparison with such whirlwinds of action as Fry, Van Dijk and Groen.
Other actors of note are Heather Christopher as the school teacher, Amanda Stevens as Ben’s mother, and Stephanie Kroschel as Mr. Puckett and the Lunch Lady.
The set by Jill Carter is colorful and joyful with moving parts (the bed and two long pull-out benches) that are quite functional.
Kudos to director Kate Ayers and stage manager Kris Mann, costumer Keely Ford, and to whomever chose the music.

The Monster Under the Bed  runs Thurs.-Fri., 7 p.m., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. through Feb. 22. Olympia Family Theater, 612 4th Ave E, Olympia, 360-570-1638

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