Potato Needs a Bath
nytheatre.com review by Wendy Remington Bowie
April 9, 2011
Shona Reppe is throwing one heck of a good party at the New Victory Theater. In her Potato Needs a Bath, Reppe creates a magical and richly imaginative world. It’s Potato’s birthday and Reppe and the other fruits and vegetables are preparing for Potato’s birthday party. Naughty Potato needs a bath before the guests arrive, but keeps running out to play instead of coming in to get washed up for his party. As the party preparations progress we meet Potato’s friends. There’s Madame Aubergina, the glamorous singing eggplant, the musical Spanish Onion, the squabbling twin Cherries. Poor little Peach has fallen while jumping on her bed and needs a bandage. And as the party preparations go on, we must be sure not to wake the napping baby carrots.
The detailed and highly personalized characters come out of an enchanting chest of drawers which serves almost as their apartment complex and the home base for the piece. Each fruit and vegetable has its own drawer which serves as its room and each is specifically decorated for that vegetable or fruit.
Indeed Reppe’s set is nothing short of magic and pretty much serves as its own character. Like a puzzle box, little mini sets for the vegetables swing open out of drawers and from within boxes. Sometimes we get to peer inside the private quarters of the vegetables, for example when we visit Green Pepper, who is feeling blue and doesn’t want come to the party because he is missing his friend Red Pepper. Turntables create magical dance floors where the party guests dance the Mango Tango or two Pears fall in love. Bunting appears from nowhere and turns the place instantly into a party. Reppe uses magnets (I presume) and sleight-of-hand to create a captivating world that conjures up the parts of childhood where absolutely nothing is not possible. I often found myself giggling with surprise and wonder.
This is a piece that does not play down to children, but creates a world that fully engages their imaginations and creativity—one where fruits and vegetables have private lives and detailed personalities. Reppe and co-creator Andy Manley have created a fully invested world and a space where young children can very willingly and ably participate in the story by being fully and totally present and imagining and creating along with the performer—not necessarily by getting up on stage or shouting out. Every instant you are in the space you are part of and participating in this world. The lobby is full of fruit and vegetable decorations and while waiting for the house to open, we decorated party hats to wear to the party. The kids are given a goody bag on the way out.
I found the show quite funny though most of the out-loud laughs came from the adults in response to the clever, silly, yet never cloying humor (I have a feeling the kids just invested in the characters so fully and believed in their truth so much that they guilelessly accepted this world at face value) . The piece is suggested for 2-5 year olds, but I saw children as old as 9 fully enjoying it. There are chairs but parents are encouraged to sit on pillows on the floor with their kids so if that works for you be sure to dress to move (I didn’t). Parent-friendly amenities like stroller parking and a snack bar are provided.
What could be better than having all the fun of a birthday party that doesn’t end with a caked-up, sugar fueled kid? Thank you for having us. This was a really lovely party. We had such a great time!