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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

The Transition of Doodle Pequeño

Or: A Goat and her Boy.

In her director’s note, Lindsay Amer takes great pains to lead us back to the age of childhood, the kingdoms of our rooms or yards or courtyards, our unsinkable buoyancy, the life and death stakes that were cast over every mundane thing. You don’t need to achieve that state of mind to enjoy Doodle but it certainly helps to keep it as reference. With its literal box fort set Amer and her company invite you to crawl inside, if you are willing to play, and frolic around a bit, though always putting an ear to the cardboard walls to listen to the roaring east wind of the real world outside.

Doodle Pequeno (Weston Jacoby) is the new kid in his apartment complex. It is Halloween night a time for sweets and pranks but his mother is working overtime and his father is....away. He is not quite alone, his imaginary friend Valencia the goat (Isabella Gersaole) has all sorts of games they can play from reenacting the story of El Chupacabra to teaching her friend the finer points of goat speech. They are interrupted by Reno (Treyvon Thomas), eager for a tricker treating companion and to show both Doodle and Valencia the lore of the neighborhood, especially the orange trees (or blood pumpkin bowers, depending on who you ask) in the courtyard guarded by Baumgartner (Quinn Rattan) the troll (or landlord, depending on who you ask). But when Doodle discovers that his new friend likes playing dress-up not just on Halloween, he must decide whether it it safer to return to his solitary life, run with the local bullies (Clayton Shuttleworth and Courtney Doyle) or stand up for the fellow misfit, the fellow dreamer.

While the whole cast is capable of bursting out in great explosions of childish energy, as well as maintaining that deadly seriousness natural to children at play, two fantastic performances belong to Gerasole and Rattan. The former has got the goat vibe down pat, from the tirp-trap run to the right mixture of english spanish and goat, to the dozen flavors of mischievousness she drizzles herself in. She commits one hundred percent to her actions, whether it be tossing her friend up on her paper plate horns or chewing Styrofoam packing peanuts, but also is not afraid to fail (as the box set ofttimes sets up the actors to do), shake her head, keep calm and carry on. Rattan, as the shows only authority figure, lends a gravity to the off the wall, sometimes cuttingly cruel games of the children. His confusion with the ever changing world of his youthful charges and is willingness to play along despite not having an inkling of what is happening, provide us with chewy moments of comedy amid all the snap and crackle of the play.

Fun and frolicsome, the transition of Doodle Pequeño rolls right into the lap, its company willing to embrace wilting set pieces and props that pinwheel off into the void. It’s is also unafraid to show just how nasty the world of childhood can be and how dangerous and deadly persecutions of race or sexuality or simple identity can take root at an early age. But like lions on the savannah or penguins on the ice, it teaches us these lessons through the power of play.

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