- Lost & Foundling
By Eric R. Pfeffinger
Directed by Janet Stanford
Produced by Imagination Stage
Reviewed by Janice Cane
The dark woods are so overdone as a scary-story setting that the forest has lost its fright. And kids these days don’t really wander around in the forest. So why not set a fairy tale in a more familiar place-like, say, a buy-in-bulk mega-store? That’s where we meet the heroine of Lost & Foundling, Pryce.
Once upon a time, Price Mart employees discovered among the cleaning supplies an infant, presumably left behind by harried and/or negligent customers. They name her Pryce (another option was Marta) and raise her in the store. Pryce’s first word was “affordable” and she navigates her life by aisle numbers. For the most part, she is a happy child, but by her fifth birthday, she begins to ask questions: Have I always been in this store? What about my family?
By her tenth birthday, Pryce starts demanding answers, but her employee family is unwilling to break the spell of her innocence. So she sets off on a quest to the Lost & Found counter at the faraway west end of the store, where she hopes someone will have come to retrieve her.
Pryce bravely encounters “The Slasher,” a supposedly fearsome creature who in reality is a wacky but kindhearted lady armed only with a price-tag gun. The Slasher explains that she is always working to lower prices, and in doing so makes a difference in the world (“This metal bakeware? It’s going doooown!”). She has to slash, “just like an alligator has to alligate.”
Pryce’s friends back in the east end of Price Mart stubbornly refuse to believe that Pryce is happy with her decision to set off on her own. They decide to protect her by scaring her back home, but turning off all the lights in the store only furthers Pryce’s delight at her newfound freedom-this is her first encounter with darkness, and she loves it.
She successfully navigates her way past several other challenges, including the demanding shopper, the free-samples table, and the never-ending line (that last one made me reconsider my plans to stop by Target on my way home). Pryce even gets to talk to her own personal “burning bush”-the PA system voice-before reaching the Lost & Found counter, where employees inform her that she is not in fact lost; instead, she has found herself.
What Pryce has found is that she wants to explore the outside world, where she can learn about things like umbrellas, which she has never encountered before. So off she goes into the sunset, past the loading dock.
A cute little story for the kid in me. But the rest of me-the adult part-couldn’t help but think it’s strange that a ten-year-old girl with no real-world experience is sent off on her own. She doesn’t even know what rain is! I also wondered exactly who was looking after Pryce after hours. Did her “family” really leave her in the store, alone in a sleeping bag, instead of taking her home with them?
Except for these pretty significant holes, playwright Eric R. Pfeffinger offers a refreshing take on a classic story format. There are winks and nods to that original quest fairy tale, like when Pryce wanders around in a red hoodie. And while this play is clearly geared toward its younger audience (Imagination Stage recommends ages six and up, but I noticed plenty of younger kids as well), there are a couple of moments that only adults can appreciate, unless an eight-year-old can quote Janis Joplin (“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”).
The cast of Lost & Foundling warmly embraces even the cheesiest moments in this script. Store greeter Stacy (Susan Lynskey) is a gentle caretaker who seems to let her own fear of the world outside Price Mart dictate Pryce’s experiences, too, while Mark Krawczyk’s custodian is more encouraging of exploration. Pryce herself is played by Taisha Cameron, who is surprisingly convincing as a ten-year-old full of wide-eyed wonder. My favorite, though, was Misty Demory, in all of her roles-Slasher, Free Samples, and Found (yes, the Lost & Found counter is manned by two people named Lost and Found). She’s sweet, she’s zany, and she’s fully committed to getting kids to laugh.
And the kids do laugh, especially at the physical comedy mixed in with the life lessons. So if you know a young kid with a sense of humor and no plans next weekend, get out to Imagine Stage before Lost & Foundling‘s run ends on March 2.
Running Time: 1:30 with 10-minute intermission
When: Thru March 2. Saturday at 12:30, 3:30, and 7:30, and Sunday at 12:30 and 3:30.
Where: Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Avenue, Bethesda, MD
Call: (301) 280-1660 or consult the website.