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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

A Wrinkle in Time

Or: The Weird and the Wonderful

It is a great shame that we’ve lost touch of our an appreciation for, or at least acknowledgement of, magic. Not just the part-the-dead-sea-pull-a-sword-from-a-stone-expelliarmus sort but the magic of tree’s turning carbon dioxide into oxygen, or the magic of a story being passed down teller to audience down the long centuries, or the magic of two people who know each others faults and hearts so well they can trade whole conversations simply by exchanging gazes. We forget about these things and thus have to be shocked into remembrance by a really strange story into thinking like children again; when there were monsters in the closet but angels at the headboard too. So it is that we’re drawn to stories like The Little Prince, or The Phantom Tollbooth, or in this case L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, here woven for our enjoyment by Bex Ehrmann.

It was a dark and stormy night when Meg Murray (Amanda Landis) set out, without her knowledge, to save the world. Feeling like an outcast because of her exceptional family and downright peculiar little brother Charles Wallace (Kali Skatchke), wishing that life would be simpler or at least that her father (Nat Kier) would return from his mysterious disappearance, Meg meets Charles Wallace’s acquaintances Mrs. Whatsit (Rachel Meloan) and Mrs. Who (Abby Weissman) a pair of strange and flighty woman who might be able to help the siblings bring back her father from.....elsewhere. After running into Meg’s classmate, the too-cool-for-this but bighearted Calvin (Daniel Stompor) the weird sisters send the children on a space and time traversing quest to rescue their father from the world of Camazotz, where the terrible IT lies in wait for them.

The first of hopefully many productions to appear in the Seabury Great Room (600 Haven St), Ehrmann’s Wrinkle is a very smart show, making the warm stone lodge of the hall into a vegetable patch, a kitchen, and a vast and terrifying city of sameness, among other things. Though dominated by an enormous web-canopy-projection-thing upon which the wonders of the universe are stretched out, the play comes alive more in Cecilia Pappalardo’s and Zachary Barr’s darkly swelling sound design and through Ehrmann’s own use of movement. Each individual “tesser” or jump through time and space is accompanied by a chaotic bust of fragmented lines and pin-balling actors in semi-darkness, each tesser slightly different from the others but always giving the physical impression, not just the visual representation, of what its like to be sucked through gnarled reality. These movement pieces are made given an even more palatable by the in scene antics of the actors: bumps, shifts mind-controlled twitches, and a whole hotbed of warm and touching hugs.

Like their director, the cast of A Wrinkle in Time, are smart enough to know what picture and impression they are sharing with the audience. If their lines are sometimes slow on the follow up or their presence more inert than one could wish, it is plainly not for want for respect of our attention or their mateial. Weissman and Meloan are delightful as the pair of oddities, full of antics, fast and furious dialog and moments of deep affection for the children they have to send to fight off darkness. Kier, his character lost in the vaults of Camazotz for much of the story ably steps into the roll of narrator, with a clean strong voice, and the nuanced, appropriately repressed involvement of the forcibly impartial observer. Skatchke begins as your typical formula for adorable child, with a penguine turnabout walk, a frank gaze and a calm manner of accepting the unbelievable but who adds more and more tinctures of spooky, reminding us that Damien Thorn and Adam Young were once like Charles Wallace too. Stomper, providing much of the comic relief of the story(never overplayed, and always true in its awkwardness), pitches Clavin to us underhand: his fears, his mask of coolness, and his growing attachment to Meg, his attempts to diffuse nail biting situations with poor jokes, are all honestly given and gently presented.

But it is Landis who takes the weight of the production, and the story, on her back and runs with it. It is hard work playing these children’s literary heroes properly: their flaws are so fine to look at and run so deep, their character arcs climb so high and plunge so low, that its hard to cobble together anything but a figurine, rather than the full human heart that beat so between the words. Landis has a great talent for warmth and gawkishness (which is harder to synthesize than the former) and lavishes both on dear Meg. Her snide, not unkind, jabs at her family and friends caused more than one smile to spontaneously bloom on these lips, and her struggles with immediate perils, both physical and spiritual, made my heart wince as though it were my own sisters staring into the abysmal maw of despair and oblivion. But most of all, Landis’s valiant struggle to ride the colt of Meg’s wild emotions (rather than muzzle them) and her gradual acceptance of the invisible and essential, makes a smart, heartfelt, and fascinating performance that I would gladly see unfold again under the spellbound sky.

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