Charlotte banner

Spotlight Players’ final offering of 2015-16, their first season in their new digs – the Theatre at the Fort at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Lawrence – is Charlotte’s Web, the endearing children’s tale by E.B. White. Employing an adaptation by Joseph Robinette, director Jim LaMonte and his cast have brought the story to life in a sweet, gentle and original way.

Inspired perhaps by such productions as Q Avenue and Hand to God, the several animal characters in the play are portrayed by actors with puppets. This method, sans ventriloquism, provides a pleasant portrayal, much enjoyed by the children in attendance at this performance.

The cast of 11, some handling several roles, are efficient in their story-telling. Patrick Becker is earnest as the main character, Wilbur the pig. He is joined by Elisabeth Giffin who conveys a fittingly tender air of kindness and caring as Charlotte the spider. Jeremy Tuterow joins the lead triumvirate, seemingly with a bow to Paul Lynde, as a self-interested Templeton the rat. Of the human characters, Audrey Duprey does a noteworthy job as Fern, the girl who helps save Wilbur from showing up on a dinner table.

Charlotte Fern 2

Audrey Duprey appears as Fern in Spotlight Players’ “Charlotte’s Web”.

Working on a rude but appropriately crafted set designed by LaMonte, the use of hand puppets with visible actors lends a quality of expressiveness one doesn’t get with ventriloquists or unseen puppeteers. I found myself watching the actors’ faces more than their puppets, which made it seem that the puppets took the place of a costume – so that Becker “was” Wilbur just by having a pig doll on his arm. It was a nicely effective method! And I must add that the wonderful array of puppets were created by Ashley Miller and Aaron Beasley of a group called The Lazy Knights of Felt.

Charlotte puppets

From left, Dustin Miller, Joey Click, Jeremy Tuterow and Veronique Duprey with some of the puppet characters in Spotlight Players’ “Charlotte’s Web”.

This is very much a children’s theatre production, and if the reaction of the two youngsters who sat behind me at the show is any indicator, it is magical and wonderous for kids. The show generated lots of questions from these two about the funny characters and about why Charlotte got left behind.

Bottom line: This story is a perfect one for teaching about friendship and caring and giving a lot to those we care about. Spotlight Players delivers on all these aspects and this play will touch the lives of those children lucky enough to be taken to see it. Be aware that this production plays only the remainder of this weekend and one other weekend before closing.

Charlotte’s Web continues at Spotlight Players new venue, Theater at the Fort, 8920 Otis Ave. in Lawrence through June 26. You can find out more information and make reservations by going to http://www.spotlight-players.org or by calling 317-366-4795.

  • – Photos by Spotlight Players

 

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