Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
nytheatre.com review by Lynn Marie Macy
October 25, 2009
Perhaps the best measurement of successful children's theater is whether or not the children attending remain engaged in the production. This certainly was the case for Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse presented by Mile Square Theatre at the Monroe Center for the Arts Theatre Space in Hoboken. Based on the "Lilly" books by Kevin Henkes and adapted for the stage by Kevin Kling. This inaugural MSTkids production runs until November 8.
While Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse is the main story line in this entertainment, source material was also gathered from Henkes's other mouse books that feature Lilly, including Chester's Way and Julius, Baby Of The World.
The kids in the theater were brimming with pre-show enthusiasm. Their excitement was contagious. The first few rows in the theater had the seats removed so that the children could all sit together towards the front, "bleacher style." This heightened their camaraderie with one another and likely made them feel much more a part of the action.
The play begins and Lilly, delightfully brought to life by Blair Brooks, takes us all on a journey through her daily mouse adventures; winning the friendship of Chester and Wilson, played with energy and commitment by Shaun Brown and Stephen Ellis; navigating the emotional mine field of having a new baby brother (cleverly represented by a mouse puppet); and finally, getting into trouble at school by showing off her new purple plastic purse and disrupting class. Fortunately, all ends well for Lilly and her teacher with cheesy snacks and everyone learning the appropriate life lessons along the way.
The talented cast is rounded out by Kate Geller, Richie Call, and Diedre Skiles, who successfully play multiple roles including Lilly's parents, her grandmother, and her beloved teacher Mr. Slinger.
The illustration-like costumes and sets are pleasingly colorful and work well to keep the play moving along with the solid direction by Chris O'Connor, who also managed to blend the various elements of the story together resulting in a thoroughly exuberant afternoon with Lilly, her mice friends and family—much to the delight of all the little ones present.
While the careers of the award-winning author of the original Lilly books Kevin Henkes and stage adapter writer/storyteller Kevin Kling may not have been uppermost in the children's minds, their parents might have liked to know more about the authors and their work and it would have been a good idea to include their bios and information in the program. Still, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse had enough smiles and laughs for moms and dads to have a share as well. And as luck would have it, there is a lovely cheese shop just downstairs for those who end up with understandable cravings. The Mile Square Theatre kids productions promise to be a great new asset to the Hoboken community and with free parking at the Monroe Center for the Arts, a great day out for the whole family.