Adventure Theatre’s production of Charlotte’s Web – an adaptation of the E. B. White classic – reflects the company’s ability to showcase what high ranking theatrical talent can do with beloved tales enjoyed by all ages.
Once again, the production features the award-winning best, in the form of Deidra LeWan Starnes who obviously has no bounds in being able to mesmerize a crowd, this time as Charlotte herself, complete with the fetching mannerisms of a helpful spider, spinning her web to help others.
With her engaging appeal, winsome smiles and loving manner, Starnes portrays Charlotte with affection and caring, offering gentle words of encouragement to those who would otherwise fall by the wayside. No wonder all of the animals in the barnyard hold her in such high esteem. It’s a much brighter day under Charlotte’s watchful eye spinning about as trusted friend and ready confidant. Nothing escapes her notice and she hasn’t met a problem she couldn’t spin a solution for, even saving the little runt of a piglet, Wilbur, played winningly by Davis Hasty.
Director Serge Seiden brings hilarity and thoughtfulness throughout the show with a warm and caring touch so that the sequence of events feels genuine and real with a natural ebb and flow.
The result of all this artistry is a playful and witty depiction of the beloved Charlotte’s loving sacrifice in caring for her friend, Wilbur the pig, with life lessons about caring and friendship. Once Charlotte takes the little runt piglet under her wing, there is no stopping what she will do to aid and protect him.
Seiden and Starnes are well supported by the rest of the excellent cast members who bring energy and excitement to their respective roles. Hasty is an absolute treasure as Wilbur the piglet, with his woeful expressions each time he’s threatened with being featured as the next tasty meal.
Blair Bowers is also wonderfully cast as the farmer’s daughter Fern who loves him – together, they exude a fun-filled romp of affection and wonder in portraying their evolving friendship while intent on their quest to keep Wilbur off the butcher’s block. Their first meeting, in fact, was a love-at-first sight affair, complete with swelling violins only a flashback away from embracing lovers rolling on a beach of crashing waves. A piglet stand-in for Burt Lancaster? Only Seiden’s irresistible charm could pull that off, and he does, with a hoot.
Fresh off of his wrenching portrayal of a South African servant in Master Harold and the Boys at Quotidian, Jason B. McIntosh taps into his playful side negotiating and bargaining for scraps as the crafty field rat. The cast members also portray an assortment of barnyard animals as needed, from the goose-stepping ducks to the repeating sheep who take “baa-baa” to a whole ‘nother level.
In usual fashion, the production elements are again on target, starting with the effectively designed set by Luciana Stecconi stocked with such authentic items as gunny sacks and buggy whips. Also, the set designer has orchestrated each miraculous event that enhanced Wilbur’s recognition and value, a word or phrase written in Charlotte’s web, culminating in an award winning finale at the County Fair.
At the final event, only a design of translucent magnitude will assure Wilbur’s pork chop reprieve, and Stecconi is certainly up to the task. Costumes by designer Heather Lockard reflect an assured light-hearted naturalist style, refreshingly minimalist with just a hint of the animal’s characteristic. Lighting designer John Burkland deserves a special acknowledgment for the fireworks display and the utterly fascinating and satisfying ending scene which represents Charlotte’s lasting legacy.
Seiden’s use of classical instrumental favorites enhances the transcendent quality of the scenes, helps with transitions, and shows his mastery of depicting the moment, especially this touching finale.
Adventure Theatre’s excellent production of Charlotte’s Web speaks to the kid in all of us because it relays a genuine sense of friendship, generosity, care, and caring, for which there are no age limits. We can only hope to have such loyal and trustworthy friends as Charlotte, and strive to be one to others.
Based on the Book by E.B. White . Adapted by Joseph Robinette
Directed by Serge Seiden
Produced by Adventure Theatre
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
Running time: 55 minutes with no intermission
Rating of the show: Highly Recommended