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Stories Live and in Person

Mixed results for Infinity Theatre’s kids fare

Willy the Fork (Jimmy Mavrikes) and the Storytime Lady (J.Z. Zaeske) introduce kids to the fun of seeing and hearing live theater. <<photo by Alanna Wilson >>

Infinity Theatre’s second summer in Annapolis is a busy one, with not only two musicals but also two children’s plays. Stories Live and in Person, playing Saturday afternoons, is a New York revival billed as a show to introduce the fun of seeing and hearing live theater to teach appreciation of the real thing to kids so plugged in that the lines blur between private and public space.
    The first comedic skit is hilarious, pitting a great Shakespearean actor (Jimmy Mavrikes) against an upstaging little audience member (J.Z. Zaeske) with Hamlet introduced by Mr. Alastair (Dan Reardon) in unmistakable Masterpiece Theater style. The kids laugh. The parents laugh. Applause. We are all on the same happy page.
    In the next scene, we lose our bearings. In an unidentified location, a comical villain à la Snively Whiplash, Willy the Fork (Mavrikes), pronounces his manic plan for world domination through fun and terrorizes a little old lady (Zaeske) with a space laser.
    A fractured fairy tale puts Willie in his place with a moral about quick rewards. The young audience goes wild for the cartoonish hijinks, the pratfalls and the outdoor voices. I don’t.
    As we slip into Scene 3, enthusiasm wanes. A mad scientist (Zaeske) scours the bookstore for a particular tome. Another guy in a white lab coat with an  Austrian accent (Mavrikes) does likewise. Turns out Tommy Time Travel and Sophie Space Scientist are in a battle of egos and a fight for the same book.
    This is a battle only a third-grader could concoct, and laughter subsides to nervous giggles as the scientists are unmasked as misbehaving children.
    Stories has a problem with the KISS principle, that fundamental building block of communication: Keep It Simple, Stupid. After a brilliant opening sequence, the next two are better suited to a workshop to help kids grow and understand the characters.
    Kudos to the performers for making the most of a flawed script.
    Costumes and set are spartan but effective. The soundtrack features snippets from ballet to hoedown to pop. Parents will appreciate the clever inclusion of classic film quotes and rock lyrics.
    This show, complete with audience participation and a post-performance Q&A, is recommended for children from three to 10, but that seems a stretch. The older, the better.

    By Alan Ostroff. Director: Lena-Moy Borgen. Production designer: Nola Denett. Stage managers: Lance Hayes and Kimberly Wilpon. Music: Clayton Powell. Production assistants: Josh De Bernardi, Emily Chalmers and Samantha Brewer.
    Playing Sa at 2pm thru August 4 at the Bay Theatre Company stage, 275 West St., Annapolis. $15 w/discounts; rsvp: 877-501-8499; www.infinitytheatrecompany.com

I saw this production and loved it. I feel that the actors portrayed three different, very unique characters- which is definitely not an easy thing to do! While the structure was flawed, it was very entertaining, and taught some valuable lessons none the less.