Thursday, November 12, 2009

Arts In Motion's ambitious 'Narnia' disappoints

"Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is the Arts in Motion Youth Players most ambitious project to date, but ambitious doesn't mean better. Everyone involved deserves credit for taking on such a big project, but it is clear they bit off more than they could chew.

“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is the first book C.S. Lewis wrote in what would become a seven-book series chronicling the adventures in the magical land of Narnia. First published in 1950, it has gone on to become one of the most beloved children's books ever written with numerous adaptations on stage and screen.

The story centers on four children, two boys and two girls, who through a magical wardrobe find their way to Narnia, a world populated by talking animals and fantastic creatures. The children join forces with Aslan the lion, the former ruler of Narnia, to do battle with the evil White Witch who took over the land and covered it in a never-ending winter.

Arts in Motion's production, which continues this weekend at Loynd Auditorium at Kennett High School in North Conway, N.H., has the benefit of an excellent set designed by Marion Owen and Glenn Noble that does a nice job of creating the snow-covered world of Narnia. The centerpiece of the set is a platform and two ramps that are used for cast members to run up and then slide down. The costumes by Jackie Mercer, Kathy Ahearn and Valerie Smith and makeup by Mercer are also handled nicely.

There are two rotating casts for the five lead roles, so I can only comment on the rotation I saw. Of the cast I saw, Rebecca Lees, as Lucy, the youngest of the four children, and Hanna Paven, as Susan, fare the best.

Jake Dunham as the faun Mr. Tumnus is a standout, but unfortunately only has limited time on stage. Tumnus is the first Narnian Lucy meets, and her sweetness prevents the gentle Tumnus from turning her over to the witch.

Meagan Davis is also of note for playing Mrs. Beaver with a Sarah Palin-esque accent. It is an odd and inexplicable choice, but at least she made a choice with her line delivery. Most of the other actors' delivery is stilted and flat as if they were told the only requirement to being an actor is knowing your lines.

Are my expectations too high? They are just young actors after all, they shouldn't be held to the same standard as adult actors, right? To an extent this is true, but younger actors aren't by default bad, as evidenced by the good work done by the teen actors in M&D's “Dog Sees God.” Actors need direction, and under director Noble and assistant director Ged Owen it is unclear they got any beyond where to stand and when to say their lines.

There were also poor choices made in the staging of the show. A red and white strobe light and bass-heavy music is used during fight scenes. This is completely out of place with the look and tone of the show and is unintentionally funny rather than exciting. In addition, there are a couple dance numbers that are well choreographed by Rebecca Sciola, but that go on far too long and merely pad the running time.

The show couldn't even get basic stage direction right. A lamp post is the marker for the point of entry and exit into Narnia. It is placed on the left side of the stage and yet people would enter and exit Narnia on the opposite side of the stage. Would it have been so hard to design the set to have the lamp post on the proper side?

If you are a family member or a friend of one of the cast members, you will probably let things slide more than I did. Part of the fun of community-based theater is seeing people you know on stage, and sometimes it doesn't matter if they were good or bad as long as everyone has fun. I just didn't have much fun.

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Anonymous said...

What is disappointing is not Narnia, but that you would post such a damaging critique of a children's production in the local newspaper. You have no business picking on the little guys. It was extremely inaccurate as well. Where did you go to school?

Katrina Carus said...

Imagine the hurt that you caused the young actors with your article (some as young as 7) You must be a very unhappy person to lash out at a youth theater. I pity you.

Anonymous said...

Alec Kerr's powers of critique do not spare the children.

You Will Never Know said...

HIs comment did spare the children BUT Alec Kerr is best friends with the dirctor and his boyfriend of God sees Dog. No wonder why they got such a great review and Narnia doesn't even spare any form of a P.L.A.Y. Nice Mr. Kerr, nice critique about everything, too bad that your secret is out... that you really aren't a critiquer but you do choose sides and are just a follower of the hatred that Mark D has on Arts and Motion.

Ken Martin said...

Firstly... You Never Know, this is Ken Martin, the director of Dog Sees God; someone who is not afraid to sign his name to comments.

Fact 1: Alec Kerr is not now, nor has he ever been my best friend. We barely know one another and seldom speak beyong the required civil conversation. I love it when anonymous jerks who have no idea what they are talking about, spout misinformation as if it is fact.

Fact 2: I pitched a fit when I heard we were mentioned in an AIM review. I was convinced that some idiot would say we were involved with it somehow. Believe me, we weren't.

Fact 3: AIM has continuously bad mouthed and undermined M&D both privately and publicly. When confronted their Board President says "we are gonna lose..." a very good atmosphere for children.

So where does the hatred come from? Not M&D.

We will continue to produce high-quality theater, and not make stupid statements publicly that have no truth in them.

Anonymous said...

Just adding my 3 cents. I was in the cast of Narnia, and I know Mr. Martin and Mark Delancy(MD Prodution) from working with them a couple of years ago. The comment beofre Mr. martin was one of the rudest comments I have ever heard. These 2 guys are very honest and upstanding and hide nothing and hate NO ONE. I agree that we didn't do the best possible show when it comes to Narnia and we should take this review as a way to better ourselves. MD teaches that and I am ashamed of anyone from Arts IN Motion who feels good about what happened in all of this mess.

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