War and Peas is a charming and delightful treat for young audiences, for the friends and family of young audiences, and for more general audiences who will enjoy and appreciate low-tech, yet imaginative, story-telling aimed at engaging children.
The only frustration I felt at Saturday’s matinee was that the audience was skimpy. I was wishing more people were there to see and support the show. It probably would have been more fun for all of us if there had been more children there, enjoying the play and responding to it with the enthusiasm exhibited by my two (almost) three-year-olds.
War and Peas is presented by Pocket Change Theatre Company and is performed by a young and enthusiastic cast. The piece categorizes itself as both children’s theatre and as dance and physical theatre.
The plot follows three intrepid vegetables (Mushroom, Eggplant, and Pepper) who set out from the refrigerator on a quest to find their friend and colleague (Tomato) who has been placed in a fruit bowl. This odyssey takes our protagonist produce far and wide. They end up, at one point, returned to the grocery store; at another point, they are on the moon. Along the way, they absorb lessons about team-work and about how we can all get along no matter our differences, fruit versus vegetable.
There is a DIY aspect to much of the production. Costumes, for instance, have a rudimentary feel to them. But that’s part of the charm of the piece. Things aren’t flashy and glossy, but they are clever and clear. Many of the props and puppets operate on different scales at different times, engaging the imaginations of the younger theatre-goers. (The five performers who don’t play the central three veggies are listed in the program as “Puppeteers.”) The appearance of a globe during the inter-planetary sequence elicited a gasp and a “Wow!” from my daughter.
War and Peas
Created, directed and choreographed by Ruthie Rado
Music by Vincent Radio
Details and tickets
An author is not listed in the program, which implies that the piece was developed through a workshop process, with input from the performers. They have been led by director Ruthie Rado, whose bio tells us that she is in another children’s show in this year’s Fringe. (That’s called The Little Crane and the Long Journey, and my family already has our tickets to that.) The music is by Vincent Rado (presumably related to Ruthie). All involved are from George Mason University; some are recent grads, some are currently attending.
Everyone in the cast is engaging and adds to the enjoyment of the play. The three central vegetables attack their roles with exuberance and relish. The puppeteers create distinct and clear characters not only through manipulation of the props, but also through their vocal work. (Special shout-out to Lorena Berger for creating the human family that periodically peers into the fridge.)
All involved are called upon not only to perform scenes, but also to engage the audience. (Funnily enough, the cast-members who seem to be the most natural actors also seemed to be the least comfortable interacting with the audience.) The play runs about an hour (just about the right amount of time for the three-year-old set) and is followed by a meet-and-greet with the cast. Seriously, who’s going to pass up the chance to chat with a strawberry?
The play is at Logan Fringe Arts Space: Upstairs, which is the central location for Fringe in its new NE neighborhood. The upstairs space has an elevated circular playing area with audience surrounding the circle. (It reminded me of the old Shady Grove Music Fair back in the day.) If there is a small quibble to be had regarding the production, it would be that some effects (a multi-actor dog who at one point stretches the diameter of the stage, for instance) could have rotated during particular sequences so that the effect could be shared with more of the audience.
War and Peas plays again, twice this weekend and twice the following weekend. It’s a smart, witty play, and a fun afternoon that will delight the little ones in your life — and charm you in the process.
(My husband Jay Hardee and our twins Aksel and Ivona contributed insights that have informed this review.)