SEEDFOLKS: Show Review by Amy Wall Lerman


When I told my 10 year old son we were headed to the theater to see a play, he hesitated.

“Is it a musical?”

“No.”

“Then I’m not going.”

Ever since he saw SpongeBob on Broadway, nothing else will do, so I read him the description of the show.  When I was done, he said, “You got me at the one woman show thing.”  I’m not sure what surprised me more: his Jerry Maguire reference or his interest in a one-woman show. Perhaps he was more sophisticated than I realized?  Well, he was right to be intrigued.  This show could not have been performed in any other way.

Seedfolks is adapted from a magnificent book by Paul Fleischman.  Perhaps the show is so good because the play is also authored by Fleischman.  It’s a novella that brings together 11 characters of varying ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds by means of a neighborhood garden.  But it’s not a garden until one little Vietnamese girl plants the first seeds.  Side-stepping rats and ignoring a trashed refrigerator she finds a spot of earth and plants her dried lima bean seeds.  Her visits to the garden draw the attention of the neighborhood watch – a woman who claims she doesn’t need a TV when she has so many apartment building windows to peer into.  From there the interest in the garden grows and a divided community of isolates begins to come together.

Sonja Parks, an actor from Austin, Texas plays all the characters in the play.  She knows these characters so well that each one comes to life with the ease of an expert.  At first I was nervous that my son wouldn’t be able to relate to one person transitioning between characters.  I was concerned that the character switches might be too subtle for him to follow, but as usual, he amazed me.  He started counting the characters each time Ms. Parks switched.  He also knew when she had switched back to a character we’d already met. I’ll give his brilliant brain only partial credit.  Ms. Parks made that happen with very light assistance from lighting and music changes.

I’m sure the direction of Peter Brosius, no stranger to children’s theater with the works of children’s book authors Dr. Seuss and Ezra Jack Keats to his credit, had something to do with knowing how to make the characters relatable to a young audience.  The children and adults in the audience were thrilled when, Ms. Parks as “Sam,” the 72 year old man, headed into the audience introducing himself and audience members to one another.  Sam, the peacekeeper, the one who wants everyone to work together and get along.  He turned out to be the character my son talked about before he fell asleep that night.

Jorge Cousineau’s set design worked perfectly.  Using only the stage, an elevated platform and digital screens depicting city scenes, we’re transported to the familiarity of brick apartment complexes.  Sonya Berlovitz’s simple costume design allowed for believability in all the character portrayals.  From the dialect coach to the sound effects, this was a show that pulls you in and holds you close.

We left the theater, after an hour of complete absorption, into our own city’s springtime.  Heading back home to the suburbs, we saw the cherry blossoms in full bloom and the buds on the trees turning everything a hazy shade of lima bean green. We talked about the show and the connection between the characters.  We agreed that we hoped the garden and its growers would be back next spring when the snow melts.

Seedfolks is a production of the Minneapolis-based Children’s Theater Company (CTC).  The show runs through Friday, May 11th at the New Victory Theater (42nd Street in New York City between 7th and 8th Avenues).  Ticket prices vary but start as low as $16.

Amy Wall Lerman is a television news producer and long-time member of MotherhoodLater.com.  She is the author of 4 books.  She lives in West Orange, New Jersey with her husband and 10 year old son.

 

 

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