Monday, April 15, 2013

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea—Tears Of Joy—Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway

A Call For Adventure

This classic, Jules Verne, adventure tale is playing through April.  The two-character play is adapted by Jon Ludwig and directed by Nancy Aldrich and designed by Jason Miranda.  For further information go to or call 503-248-0557.

Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs were the main adventure writers of 150 years ago.  Along with 20,000 Leagues…, Verne was also famous for Around the World in Eighty Days, Mysterious Island, Journey to the Center of the Earth, et. al.  Sci-fi was, simply put, fuel for the imagination and inspired many of the inventions of today.  Disney made a grand film of it during the 50’s with James Mason as the infamous Captain Nemo and Paul Lukas as the Professor.

The story Verne (and Disney) told was much darker than this adaptation.  Although Nemo was a brilliant man, he was also authoritarian and egocentric, and he torpedoed ships quite indiscriminately.  He was what, one may surmise, an anti-hero, much like the detectives of the film noir or Eastwood’s character in the spaghetti westerns.  In short, he represented a necessary evil, a character to propel mankind forward, without scruples.  A person with a noble vision but tarnished by the lesser mettle of the outside world.

This version is concerned only with the Professor being taken aboard the sub to aid his research of the sea and its life.  They walk on the bottom of the sea, are attacked by sharks, befriend a lonely seal, and are threatened mightily by a giant Squid.  All of this is the space of about 45 minutes.  And, at the end, we are treated to how many of the designs work.  Quite an enchanting afternoon.

These visions are very nobly rendered by two actors (Andrew Fridae and Summer Olsson) playing the two leads, the French Professor and Capt. Nemo, as well as the other various sea creatures including a turtle, a jellyfish, a seal (also in Disney’s version), as well as the Giant Squid, etc.  They also operate the submarine, the Nautilus, as a type of pop-up storybook.  Both the actors are truly amazing and perform their functions with zeal. 

And the puppets of the two humans are quite a work of art, as well as the other creatures, designed by Mr. Miranda.  He is a master of color and design.  The original story has been lightened for the sake of the age group by Mr. Ludwig, as well as being educational, both on the mechanics of the production as well as sea-life itself.  Ms. Aldrich (TOJ’s Artistic Director) has geared it well for adults and the Youth. 

And all this is portrayed as a grand Geography lesson in a story-telling style.  Much like the kindly parent, sitting down at bedtime with their child and reading a story to them, playing all the characters.  And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, and are letting the Kindles and their ilk perform this task, then you are missing something truly important in bonding with these little people, and I say, shame on you.

My favorite, I confess, and I believe the audiences, too, was the seal.  And I was quite taken with wonder by the bubbles that were created, a glimpse back to my childhood, I suppose.  This is a show that I recommend and should be shared with a child to be fully enjoyed.  They are actually lowering their ticket prices for next year and I applaud them for that.  In this economy, reduced prices and imagination are a valuable commodity.

I wished they had showed the informative film at the end, as well, as it is quite good.  Obviously, I recommend this show.  If you choose to go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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