Review: 'Animals out of Paper'

 

Indiana Repertory Theater

Directed by William Brown

[3 stars]

More than anything else about this adaptation of Jules

Verne's novel, I was taken with Kevin Depinet's set and Charles Cooper's

lighting, which shrinks this fantastic global trek into delightfully small

dimensions. A false arch mimicking the IRT's stucco décor and age closes in the

stage. The red-tone wood stage narrows backstage to imply depth of field, as in

a painting. Small, warm spotlights introduce our hero Phileas Fogg against a

velvety darkness and then light expands for his big adventure, a

train-elephant-ship voyage accompanied by projections of dreamy skies and full

moons. Like other Verne tales, Around the World presents a 19th-century Neverland. Rich Brits toss money around like

stale bread. Servants gladly follow their masters to the ends of the earth.

Police detectives circumnavigate the globe in pursuit of justice. It's a

child's adventure, complete with ethnic stereotypes of human-sacrificing

Indians and opium-smoking Chinese. Director William Brown and his fleet-footed

five-person cast (most in their first IRT production) make it all seem mostly

harmless, even charming, especially with a dumb American cowboy thrown in for

good measure. Most play multiple roles to good comic effect. I actually thought

that Zack Buell was two different actors. Mark Brown's script is never as

clever as the production's imagery, costumes and sound, but I imagine 21st

century children will still enjoy this fantasy of world travel, conceived long

before electronic worlds fit in our hands.635-5252, www.irtlive.com. Through

May 16.

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