By Allison McDowell Enstrom
It was easy to understand why the Mainstage at Youth Theatre Northwest (YTN) wasn’t packed on Saturday. It was 2 p.m. on the sunniest, warmest day we’ve had all year. Yet the young actors of A Wrinkle in Time were certainly no less committed to their show.
Madeline L’Engle’s 1962 award-winning book was adapted into a play that premiered in Seattle in 2010. The novel received as much acclaim as it did criticism for its heavy and controversial content for YA reading. With a female protagonist (gasp), the story confronts death, explores time travel, and embraces Christian views of love and evil.
If you don’t know the story, Meg’s scientist father had disappeared while working on a secret government project. Meg, her exceptionally intuitive younger brother, and a high school friend set off on a supernatural journey to find her dad. Three angelic beings help transport the trio while “The Black Thing” that Meg’s father is fighting against dominates the scientist and the planet.
The YTN actors ranged from 11-years old (Sophie Kelly-Hedrick who played lead Charles Wallace) to 18. Most had some prior acting experience. Along with Charles Wallace, the other two main characters were 15-year-old Anais Gralpois who played Meg and 17-year-old Carson Beck who was delightfully controlling and evil as Red Eyes.
The set was simple, maybe to a fault. It consisted of three sets of block-type steps painted a greyish blue. Without scene changes, it was hard to follow the actors to their different locations during the play (home, Uriel, Camazotz, CENTRAL Central Intelligence). For me, the highlight of the afternoon was at the end of the play when the entire cast came forward to sit on the edge of the stage and answer audience questions. While there weren’t many questions from the small audience, it was neat to see the young actors up close and get an idea of their real personalities.
My 10-year-old son thought the play was really enjoyable and he seemed to be able to follow the complicated story line, despite some fairly deep biblical passages. He likes sci-fi fantasy and mystery so this was right up his alley. He said it made him want to read the book. As for my 6-year-old, it was just too old for her (it is advertised as best for ages 8+). Her barrage of questions eventually petered out into boredom and at the end when I asked her what she thought, she said she didn’t understand it.
If you have older kids who’ve read and enjoyed the book, it might be worth taking them to see the play. I felt that without that background, the adaptation was somewhat hard to follow. But nevertheless, watching the kids perform with heart and enthusiasm made it more entertaining.
Also, if you have kids interesting in acting, Youth Theatre Northwest might be a good inroad. They have classes for kids as young as three going all the way up to 18. Now might be a good time to check out their summer camp options, too.
If you go . . .
Where: Youth Theatre Northwest, Mercer Island
When: April 20-May 6, Fridays and Saturdays 7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays 2 p.m.
Prices: $15 adults, $13 youth/senior
Tickets and Information: Box Office – 206-232-4145, ext. 109, or online at youththeatre.org