When I was working as a children’s librarian, I loved that all kinds of kids would ask me for Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. Those two books had made poetry cool. On the other hand, I hated Silverstein’s famous picture book, The Giving Tree.
An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein is a collection of ten very short, mostly hilarious plays. The playwright’s love of language, including curse words, shines through the darkness of violence, prostitution, homelessness and more. The many surprises make for mostly satisfying plots if not joyful ones.
The show made me wonder if Silverstein never meant for The Giving Tree
to be taken seriously as a prescription for unconditional love, as so many people read it. In one of the Adult Evening
plays, “Wash and Dry,” the woman behind the counter says something like, “I’m trying to teach you to pay attention.” (She happens to be reading a NUVO as she says it.)
In any case, it is fascinating and yes, fun, to see how Silverstein’s uniquely talented mind works when allowed total freedom.
Theatre on the Square
’s production features a strong ensemble under the direction of D. Scott Robinson. Sasha Bannister, Kelsee B. Hankins, Stacia Hulen, Ryan Powell, Patrick Slattery, and Robert Webster, Jr. are a lot of fun to watch. They all work well together. Each also takes the opportunity to explore his or her actor’s toolkit in the form of accents, physical fighting skills, comedy props, etc., These embellishments aren't called for in the script, which makes for some lovely additional layering.
Aaron B. Bailey’s set deftly pays homage to Shel Silverstein’s illustration style. The other design elements are also well chosen. I loved the original rhyming in the curtain talk and laughed out loud at the intermission music.
I took off a star because one of the plays, “Going Once,” is about a woman being auctioned off. The other nine plays mix humor and darkness, but I didn't enjoy "Going Once" at all.