You’re never too young to be taken to the theatre. And you’re never so young that you shouldn’t expect a lot from the theatre that is aimed toward you.
That seems to be the proposition behind Arts on the Horizon, the wonderful local company whose target audience ranges from shortly after birth (I’ve seen, among its audience, kids who count their age in weeks) up to, I suppose, that sad point when self-consciousness intrudes upon the innocence of childhood and the richness of its imaginative life.
Most readers will be aware of how much terrific theatre for young audiences is available in our region, but may not be aware of how early in life a child can access a wonderful theatrical experience.
Worried about taking to the theatre a child so young that they might not be able to be silent and still for the duration of a performance? Bring that kid to Beep Beep!
Firstly, the performance doesn’t utilize language much, so, when kids at the performance I attended asked questions of their adult, or offered advice to a character, or chased bubbles, it wasn’t disruptive in the least.
Secondly, the show is so engaging that none of the kids at my performance acted out because they were unhappy to be there.
Worried that you’ll be so bored out of your mind that you’ll wish you were at the dentist instead of at a show for children? Bring yourself to Beep Beep!
Firstly, Arts on the Horizon understands that the sweet spot for its target audience is a bit south of an hour and, therefore, the piece doesn’t wear out its welcome for the young theatre-goer — or for their companion.
Secondly, the appreciative laughter I heard was not confined to the young. Deep-voiced guffaws were common at the performance I attended. The humor in the piece and the ingenuity of the stagecraft have an appeal that is not confined to children.
That is, in part, because the scenario (which involves a somewhat hapless pair who are trying to get a recalcitrant ice cream truck to function properly) is firmly in a tradition of physical comedy that goes back to commedia dell’arte and that, most relevantly, also includes the great silent and early talking film comics (Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy) whose work frequently involved the theme of hapless souls who are confounded and confused by inanimate objects and/or by non-compliant technology.
Atlas Performing Arts Center
March 27 – 31, 2019
Details and tickets
Which is a pretentious way of saying that watching other people try to make stuff work never gets old and never fails to earn a laugh.
Although the play (written and directed by Rex Daugherty) involves almost no dialogue, that doesn’t mean it is silent. The antics of Dodge (Dallas Tolentino) and Wrench (Julia Klavans) are accompanied by an on-stage musician (Aaron Bliden) who provides percussion, bells, and what I think is a penny-whistle to punctuate the proceedings and to provide a consistently delightful soundscape.
Daugherty’s work with his team is full of clever detail. The three performers are charming, animated, wordlessly expressive, occasionally impressively athletic, but they never feel pushed in the manner that one can experience when a company doing theatre for kids doesn’t engage their audience with due respect for a child’s intelligence. The piece doesn’t dumb itself down because it’s for children.
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The design (set and props by Patti Kalil; costumes by Julie Cray Leong) is similarly engaging without being jarring: the palette is pastel, but is tastefully muted.
There are too many deft and clever grace notes to list in a review, but the performance even gets a little meta when the actors go into the audience space. (Most of the seating is on the carpeted floor, although there is a row of chairs in the back for floor-averse adults.) The occasional sound cues that aren’t generated live were playful allusions, I thought, to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The license plate of the truck is “Beep x 2.” There are a lot of beautiful touches.
I think my favorite moment is when Dodge and Wrench, eventually successful in enjoying something sweet, share it with the truck. Sweet indeed.
Or maybe it’s when the musician’s drumsticks fall limp and their improvised replacements are ice cream cones. (Hey…I think I remember that “drumsticks” are among the treats on offer at an ice cream truck!)
Beep Beep!’s remaining performances at The Lab at Convergence are sold out. The show moves to Atlas Performng Arts Center for 8 performances, March 27 – 31. There are mid-week morning performances. I remember well how valuable it was to find imaginatively engaging things to do with the pre-school set midweek.
Beep Beep! offers an opportunity to introduce the children in your life to an alternative to what they see on a screen. Take advantage of it!
Beep Beep! Written and directed by Rex Daugherty . Cast: Julia Klavans (Wrench), Dallas Tolentino (Dodge), Aaron Bliden (Musician) . Set/Props Design: Patti Kalil . Costume Designer: Julie Cray Leong . Dramaturg: Stephanie Lash Kilpatrick . Stage Manager: Drew Neitzey . Produced by Arts on the Horizon. Reviewed by Christopher Henley.