From the onset, Coraline makes it clear in no uncertain terms that her name is pronounced “core” instead of the usual “care.” As such, the independent Coraline stakes out a solid sense as a girl who can fend for herself, deal with danger, and could pop into and out of unnerving places, just for the sake of exploring. It’s easy to think that from the safety of her bedroom.
The show has a Tim Burton kind of feel and tone, where spooky red eyes peer from corners and crevices, rats and mice give advice, and child skeleton spirits dangle on the ends of sticks. All of this awaits Coraline who sits in her room, bored with nothing to do, barely attended to by busy parents. What’s an inquisitive youngster to do when the door to nowhere, sealed by a brick wall suddenly opens up? Well, walk through it, of course, and deal with all the goofy intrigue on the other side, in this case, a menacing second set of parents who know all about her, only they are jiminy-creepy!
Ella LaGrange, one of three young actors alternating the role of Coraline, is a marvel at handling mega-loads of dialogue and text with the aplomb of a seasoned performer. While her verbal delivery is masterful, her presentation is a bit on the monotone side. She warms up towards the end of the show with reactions to events and even showing a hint of a smile. So we know it’s there, she just needs to get past possible opening night jitters. She shares the role with another 7th grader, AnnMarie Baughman, and with Ava Nicholas. I’m tempted to catch later in the run to see what they do with the daunting role. Yes, the play is that good.
Doing precious double duty are Shelly Work and Timothy R. King who play harried parents, multi-tasking on computers barely noticing the missing Coraline who scouts around the old rickety house ready for adventure. The two also play a seasoned theatrical neighbor couple with a loving penchant for Shakespearean interludes, and an alternate couple on the other side of the door with scene stealing quips that director Melissa Baughman handles with rollicking fun.
“Other Mother” –yes, that’s what she’s called, is played with fiendish glee by Jen Bevarelli. She starts off obsequious and endearing, nudging Coraline to relent to her requests and demands with alluring treats, then resorts to ghoulish maneuvers to force her to stay, such as replacing her human eyes with buttons. Matt Baughman (who was fabulous in Quotidian’s Hobson’s Choice) plays the robotic Dad who has a circuitry meltdown with chillingly dark consequences for a family show.
closes October 28, 2018
Details and tickets
All of the actors are fully committed to their various roles including Mickey Bevarelli as Mr. Bobo packing plenty of rats, and a nice turn by Andrew Lloyd Baughman as a wise-cracking cat, who transitions from wearing black to white swinging tuxedo tails to represent which reality he’s in. As musical director and accompanist, A. Baughman does double, triple and more duty at one point even accompanying himself with recorded keyboard, and singing while playing the accordion!
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Melissa Baughman, also set designer, works wonders covering the back wall with a drawn spiderweb, and facilitating Coraline’s transitions to alternate realities through the door stage left. A fully set dining table is cozily on the right, and Coraline’s bed is in the center for fitful naps. Jen Bevarelli’s costumes has Coraline romping in a comfy jumper and leggings, and quick simple changes for the ensemble in transitioning to pets, menacing creatures or endearing friends. That’s the kind of full-scale talent on display with this creative company, best known in DC for more adult fare, such as symphonic metal versions of Sweeney Todd and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Coraline, faced with the prospect of losing her old boring sometimes neglectful parents forever, wagers her life to rescue them.
Neil Gaiman’s Coraline began as a graphic novel in 2001, and later was turned into a “cool by creepy” animated film. This stage adaptation is filled with fun music, a creative flair, spiffy lyrics and jaunty edge of your seat plot twists. Billed as a dark fantasy, the designers effectively create the mood to satisfy film and book fans alike. Landless, based in Frederick MD, makes good use of the space at Best Medicine, with a perfectly timed show for family entertainment between shopping and snacking at Lake Forest Mall in Gaithersburg– truly a win-win situation.
Landless Theatre Company recommends it for ages 13 and up.
Coraline by David Greenspan . Music by Stephin Merritt . Director and Set Designer — Melissa Baughman . Based on the Novel by Neil Gaiman . Directed by Melissa Baughman . Cast: Andrew Lloyd Baughman, Ann Marie Baughman, Matt Baughman, Jen Bevarelli, Mickey Bevarelli, Timothy R. King, Ella LaGrange, Ava Nicholas, Shelly Work . Music Director, Sound and Lighting—Andrew Lloyd Baughman . Costume –Jen Bevarelli . Stage Manager—Sarah Fech-Baughman . Produced by Landless Theatre Co. . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.