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Sutter Street Theatre Flies Through “A Wrinkle in Time”

Review by Gerry Camp / Folsom Telegraph

            Live theatre always demands a collaboration between the audience and the performers. No matter how elaborate a stage set may be, we viewers always agree to pretend we’re watching real people doing real things in real places. Sometimes a playwright relies on this contract to take his audience to fantastic places: Oz, Wonderland, or, in the fantasy voyage “A Wrinkle In Time,” to far-off planets, both good and evil. The play, adapted from Madeleine L’Engle’s children’s classic novel by John Glore, plays at Sutter Street Theatre weekends through July 17.

            Grace Mauro is riveting as the brilliant but awkward Meg Murry, whose father has disappeared on a super-secret government mission. The weird lady down the block, Mrs. Whatsit, might be able to help her reach him, understanding that she must travel through time and space using a process called a “tesseract,” which is a very risky undertaking.

            Accompanying Meg will be her eccentric little brother Charles Wallace (he reads minds), played with great authority and charm by one of the best young actors in the area, Sean Stewart. (Seeing the change in Charles Wallace when the evil force IT takes over his mind late in the play is very creepy.) Also along for the adventure is Meg’s timid friend Calvin (Caiden Falco), who deftly adds a comic touch as a regular kid who surprises Meg and himself by demonstrating real courage when things get especially scary.

            The remainder of the dozen or so characters are played by three actors. Mrs. Whatsit, a sort of whimsical bag lady who also appears as the evil Man With Red Eyes, was played opening weekend by stage manager Jennie Vaccaro filling in for Linda Taylor who was ill. Vaccaro, carrying a script, was excellent. The children’s mother was played by Felicia Slechta, who also was very comical as Mrs. Who, and later appeared as a faceless but friendly being referred to as Aunt Beast. Keven Branson was forceful as the voice of Mrs. Which, a glowing ball and as Mr. Murry, the father, and in numerous brief parts.

            How do you present on stage a tale that shows its characters zooming through space and time, confronting aliens, and facing threats on several planets? Shakespeare once told his audience, “Let us . . . on your imaginary forces work,” and the playwright and director Michael Coleman ask the same of their audience. The unobtrusive narration by the actors and the minimal set of folding screens and boxes skillfully moved as the action takes place, accompanied by Coleman’s unworldly sound and light effects, help us imagine we are seeing strange worlds.

            Many adults  like me will remember the novel with pleasure from their childhood reading. But those unfamiliar with the book who can immerse themselves in a great story well told, and young viewers who enjoy being taken on thrilling adventures, will find “A Wrinkle in Time” a delightful afternoon of theatre, one in which they participate as well as watch.