Little Giants: The Miniature Plays of Thornton Wilder

April 22, 2013

By Nancy Grossman
For Broadway World Boston

Little Giants.jpgImaginary Beasts joins the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Thornton Wilder's Our Town by presenting a selection of ten of the playwright's twenty-one so-called playlets in an intimate and animated forum in the Plaza Black Box at the Boston Center for the Arts. Under the direction of founder Matthew Woods, an egalitarian ensemble of ten actors and actresses creates a circus-like environment with mime, acrobatics, and clown collars, augmented by atmospheric lighting and original music. As much poetry as prose, Little Giants: The Miniature Plays of Thornton Wilder introduces the audience to a very different side of Wilder who was renowned for his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama staged earlier this year by the Huntington Theatre Company at the BCA.

Working on a barebones set, Woods (who doubles as scenic designer) challenges the audience to use their imaginations to follow the physical dramatics of the troupe. During the course of the 70-minute (without intermission) performance, each of The Players takes on multiple roles, serves as stagehands and props masters, and works really hard to imprint their visual creations on our minds eyes. The plays are listed in alphabetical order in the program, so the Beasts have found a variety of ways to introduce the titles as the scenes unfold. My favorite involved an unsuspecting member of the audience being handed a sheet of paper and instructed to read "The Song of Maria Bentedos," a name that required some repeating before the woman pronounced it to the satisfaction of actor Gabriel Graetz.

Graetz and Molly Kimmerling are featured in the latter play and appear together again in "Flamingo Red: A Comedy in Danger" as a couple patronizing the Flamingo Red Tea Room where Cam Cronin sashays around the room in a floor-length red dressing gown, reminiscent of a character from "Alice in Wonderland." As the couple argues and bickers about what to order, the proprietor explains that everyone who comes in faces a similar fate. This trio accounts for most of the comic bits, although Beth Pearson is also very funny, whether wearing a box as a donkey costume or when she sings outside the box that serves as her hiding place.

The performance opens with Poornima Kirby singing, reciting poetic verse, and interacting with a wooden puppet crafted by Jill Rogati and manipulated by Kamelia Aly and Timothy Hoover in "Nascuntur Poetae." Wind sounds and ethereal music heighten the effect of Kirby's lyrical movements. The musical theme carries over to "Mozart and the Gray Steward" with William Schuller as the composer who carries on a conversation with a masked emissary and a disembodied skull. Between scenes, Amanda Goble, who toured nationally with ThreeSixty Entertainment's Peter Pan, amazes with a display of her acrobatic prowess.

Schuller is impressive as a mermaid covetous of a drowning sailor's (Amy Meyer) soul in "Leviathan," a story told in mythological form. This final playlet opens with the entire ensemble reciting lines in unison and emulating the pull of the ocean in a contemporary dance-like motion. In their vision for Little Giants, Imaginary Beasts subscribes to the philosophy of less is more and requires that each actor use whatever tools and skills they possess to breathe life into Wilder's characters with few accouterments. Costume Designer Cotton Talbot-Minkin dresses them all in white and beige, with an occasional splash of color overlaid on the under garments. Stark white and hot red are included on the palette of Lighting Designer Erich Hagan, adding texture or emotion to the scenes. The gestalt results in a delightful evening of theater. At its conclusion, the cast members simply pick up their props and exit. The spell is broken.

Written by Thornton Wilder, Directed by Matthew Woods, Costume Design by Cotton Talbot-Minkin, Lighting Design by Erich Hagan, Puppetry Design by Jill Rogati, Scenic Design by Matthew Woods

The Ensemble (in alphabetical order): Kamelia Aly, Cameron Cronin, Amanda Goble, Gabriel Graetz, Timothy Hoover, Molly Kimmerling, Poornima Kirby, Amy Meyer, Elizabeth Pearson, William Schuller

Performances through April 27 by Imaginary Beasts at Plaza Black Box at Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston; Box Office 617-933-8600 or

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Our Town 75th Anniversary Events
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