Trusty Sidekick Theater Company’s production of The Stowaway, or How the Mistress Quickly Went from Madcap to Majestic at Classic Stage Company is a gem of theatre for young audiences. Based on several of Shakespeare’s plays, the new work by Drew Petersen is charming and entertaining.
The story is structured like a Shakespearean tale: Constance the Figurehead (Leigh Poulos) begins the show by telling us vaguely and poetically what we are about to see unfold on stage. A twin brother and sister, Dennis (Rowan Magee) and Dull (Ashley Renee Thaxton), are separated by the power hungry conspirator Bullcalf (Neil Tyrone Pritchard), who takes Dennis’ place as Duke of Hockey Puck. Dennis mysteriously disappears and Dull runs away. She decides she must go to Illyria, and stows away on the Mistress Quickly, a ship captained by a crab, Captain Pinch (Rowan Magee). The crew is made up of reliable first mate Mr. Faulconbridge (Neil Tyrone Pritchard), the muscly Froth (Leigh Poulos), the not-a-medical-doctor Dr. Butts (Spencer Lott), the cheery cook, Shallow (Renata Melillo Townsend) and the house band, The Fallstaff Trio (Molly Powers Gallagher, Jocelyn Mackenzie, and Drew Petersen). Shortly after they discover Dull, a storm shipwrecks them, and they find themselves separated on the island of Hockey Puck. Dull seeks out The Weird Sisters (Renata Melillo Townsend) to change Dennis back, while Captain Pinch finds himself captured after a fight with Captain Prince Hal (Spencer Lott).
Consistent with Trusty Sidekick Theater Company’s goals, the show is curated to teach children not only the content of the show, but also how theatre works. From interactive moments during the show to worksheets and activities in the program, everything about the show is geared toward educating and entertaining a young audience. The flow of vernacular language and Shakespeare’s lines teaches us what to expect out of the language. The characters also help us understand theatrical elements. This is achieved with self-awareness. They make comments about the presence of the audience, and saying things like, “When the Fallstaff Trio hits a dramatic note, you know it’s about to go down!”
The puppets, designed by Spencer Lott, are not complicated contraptions, and the actors give them life with movement and vocal qualities that are fun and silly. As an ensemble the actors are simply charming and they play together very well. As individuals, the actors are larger than life – no gesture, no line is too small for them. Ashley Renee Thaxton engages the audience most on a personal level and her warm demeanor helps us to feel like we are a part of the story.
The physical movement and choreography, by Sabrina Jacob, is really the icing on the cake. It’s is specific and smooth. The movement that demonstrates the ship going through a storm is particularly fantastic. Music and sound are an essential element to the production as well. Accompaniment of the Fallstaff Trio, and the original music, written by Drew Petersen, are upbeat and exciting. The final song, “The Wind and Rain,” closes the show with sweet sincerity by saying “What’s to come is still a ship on a shore with promise of something new / If to thine own self you are true.”
The design of the show is splendid. Anshuman Bhatia’s scenic design is large and spacious, and Jane Chan’s lighting design teaches us the most about dramatic moments in a theatrical production. Natalie Loveland’s costume design is perfect. A cross between pirates and Elizabethan era styles, every detail is thought out and the color palette is vibrant.
The experience is enjoyable for children of all ages. There are plenty of puns and pop culture references for adults to grab onto (including a small shout out to Flashdance and Dirty Dancing). All in all Trusty Sidekick Theater Company and Classic Stage Company deliver a high quality piece of theatre for all generations. It is an entertaining and captivating theatrical experience.
The Stowaway¸ Classic Stage Company and Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, 136 East 13th Street. Closes November 19th. Tickets HERE.