Mom Theatre Blogger: WHITE: Show Review by Jo Mispel

whitenewvicTwo characters live in a bleached monochromatic world. One day color appears. This is the basic premise of ‘White’, an award winning show for 2 – 5 year olds now playing at the The New Victory Theater. I suspected it was going to be cute, maybe adorable. And it was. As was the audience of little people, all wide eyed and enthralled.

Creator Andy Manley was prompted to imagine White while admiring a tasteful alabaster interior displayed in a home style magazine. If one inhabited that pristine world what would one do? What would the introduction of color do? Running with that idea he has created, with Catherine Wheels Theatre Company, a beautiful and immersive play. Almost a tone poem or a kid’s cartoon. There is dialogue but not much. Hardly necessary with the two expressive characters Cotton and Wrinkle and a suggestive sound composition by Danny Krass. The all white set leaks into the new 42nd Street Studio seating space, embracing us in the calm and comforting environs that is Cotton and Wrinkle’s world. Shona Reppe the designer has done a gorgeous job creating a milky whimsical space, full of textures and shapes. We first meet Manley, who plays Cotton, sitting childlike on the ever so slightly elevated stage. He is surrounded by eclectic bird houses and a teepee (a prop inspired by a trip Shona Reppe took to Glastonbury festival).

Cotton and his partner Wrinkle (played wonderfully in the show we saw by Rick Conte), are like a married couple or a pair of old chooks (chickens). They maintain a world of meticulous routine. They wake and eat and work on their luminous bird hatch world with comic sweetness and seriousness. Wrinkle is obviously in charge, a little more no-nonsense about sticking to the rules. Cotton meanwhile is a little impatient for some mysterious but imminent event and needs guidance it seems. Especially when a little scrap of color is found during morning cleaning, which must of course go straight to the trash. The little girl next to me was quick to apply this rule when the next trespassing splash appeared. The colored paper falls into the bin with a satisfying kids’ dive bomb sound.

Finally, it is time for the ‘event’ Cotton has been so excited about. Something is coming across the horizon, we can hear it. The clucky boys get their aprons out ready to collect, and plop, out of the sky fall these lovely white eggs one by one–a girl, a boy, an egg whose gender is theirs to announce later, and even twins. Each one is celebrated and gets a little knitted cap and their own unique birdhouse.

Ah the job is done – the world is in order. When what? another egg is coming – how unusual. And unusual it is. Red! Red! The panic and confusion. But it makes sweet giggling sounds just like the other eggs, and it inspires compassion and care in Cotton. Whisker however feels the need to follow the rules and convinces Cotton to throw this different egg in the trash.

Cotton feels painfully conflicted by this, his face animated with concerns. The sun goes down (and the disco light moon comes out), and Cotton can’t sleep. His heart is going to make him break a rule even though he is very scared to do this. He hopes he can save Red without Wrinkle finding out. He creeps out of their tent while Wrinkle dreams on and hides the new egg in a spare bird house.

Well of course this small act changes everything.

Color starts to sneak it’s way in. Cotton tries to cover this up at first but eventually they both have to admit defeat. This crisis then offers them both an opportunity to open their hearts to each other and admit that they actually both like color, really like color. And maybe it is ok to relax and let the change and difference in.

As an adult, it is tempting to read messages of tolerance, honesty and courage into the script. I think the younger audience just appreciated the comic blustering, the mounting tension, the celebratory ending. At 40 minutes, it is a perfect length for little ones. The actors came out post show and mingled with the crowd, and the children got to look more closely at the set. I overheard one dad thank Mark and say he had never seen his 2 year old boy so transfixed.

Of course I have spoilt the story here, but you can appreciate it’s simplicity and appeal to children. The gift of the show is sharing the characters’ awe and wonder, the experience is the immersion with the kids. Catherine Wheels Theatre Company have been performing this beloved show since 2010 when it first showed at the Edinburgh festival. This is a return show for The New Victory Theater. It’s a short run through November 22, but sprint over and catch this delightful production if you can.

For more information and tickets call 646.223.3010 or visit

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