Saturday, March 31, 2018

REVIEW: An Epic Tale of Scale- Through April 8

An Epic Tale of Scale is an interactive kids theatre show that makes great use of the Chicago Children's Theatre space to create a site specific performance that roams all over their new venue The Station.  It's fun, imaginatively done, and a great use of theatrical architecture.

Unlike most plays, the show is done by appointment- audiences are limited to groups of 20, with entry times every 15 minutes.  The show itself goes through 8 or 9 different areas of the theatre, using non-conventional theatre spaces in the theatre.  The design of the different areas is mostly fantastic (designed by Chicago Children's Theatre Community Programs Artistic Director Frank Maugieri)

After checking in, you first enter into a strange curio shop, manned by a curious Professor character.  The curios, are all on loan from the Field Museum and feature crazy collections of bugs, old-fashioned skulls, a couple of ancient typewriters. The space (usually the lobby) is completely transformed.  There, one person in your group accidentally swallows an important object that we are told is essential to the saving of the universe, and the rest of the show is a tour through the body (using a shrink ray) to try and find it. Later, you are unshrunk and sent via transport into outerspace, and you learn (SPOILER ALERT) that the thing your compadre swallowed was a message that needs to be given to a weird alien disco race.

The scenic design is fantastic, especially in the first three spaces.  The curio shop, followed by the shrink ray area (done with projections) and then the elevator, which is beautifully repurposed with a puppet element that is surprising and amazing.  After this, the design gets a little more pedestrian. There's a couple of obstacle courses through the intestine,   It's functional and fun, but not nearly as surprising.  By the end of the show (which ends as an intergalactic dance party in a black box room), the design is barebones.  I felt it was almost as if they ran out of build time, so the last half of the spaces got short shrift from the designers.

The acting is fine throughout, with a special kudo to the professor in the beginning, who was a great improviser. The second actor (who shrunk people) wore a clown nose, which I thought was a weird choice. No one else wore a clown nose, and it was not clear why she was wearing the nose other than one joke she made.

The story is serviceable, bordering on clever,  but I was disappointed by the ending.  At one point you are invited to create messages to give to the aliens, but then those messages are not incorporated into the show.  I would have loved it if they had been able to incorporate the messages (which were supposed to save the universe) into the show, and actually make it important.  Somehow, this message, which was supposed to be so important throughout the show, turns out to not be very important at all.

Overall, the show is ingenious and well worth checking out.  It ends on April 8, so make sure to check it out.  Tickets are $47 to attend, which is a little pricey, but they have over 20 performers working the show, so it makes sense. I do wish that for that kind of money a snack was included. The day we went we were pretty hungry and paid extra for snacks. (which are available at the beginning and at a middle part of the show)

Here's a little video of some snippets of the show that I took while watching the show.

An Epic Tale of Scale

March 10 - April 8 
Recommended for Ages 6 and up
Created and Directed by Jo Cattell and Henry Wishcamper
Designed by Frank Maugeri
Music and Lyrics by Gabe Ruiz
Special thanks to The Field Museum

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