Mercy Watson To The Rescue at Childrens Theatre Co.

Reed Sigmund, Sara Richardon, Mo Perry and Gerald Drake in Mercy Watson To The Rescue. Photo by Dan Norman.

Mercy Watson gets where she’s going in Act 1, Scene 1, page 1: “Toast!” she cries.  “Toast and butter!”

Mercy, a pig, says this, oh, seven or eight hundred times during CTC’s charming Mercy Watson To The Rescue (at the Childrens Theatre Co., through Oct 23).  Mercy never sways from this desire.  Indeed, she would quickly become tiresome – if she weren’t so utterly sweet and goofy.

Her doting parents, Mr. and Mrs. Watson, believe fervently that Mercy can do no wrong.  They are as laissez-faire and permissive as parents can be – that is, until Mercy snarfs her ever-suffering next door neighbor Eugenia Lincoln’s newly planted pansies.  Then the Watsons are forced to utter a vile and horrifying obscenity: “No.”  Mr. Watson goes so far as to send Mercy straight to bed – without toast.  “No toast?  Hungry.  Hungry.”

All this discipline is too much for Mercy.  She takes off, pursued by her now guilt-consumed parental units and a hootingly funny Animal Control cop, Francine Poulet.  A (long) Keystone Kops-like chase ensues.  I won’t reveal the end, though I very much doubt that it will surprise you.

The cast has at this material with CTC’s patented over-the-top and howlingly funny bombastic blustering (Peter Brosius directs with his usual flair).  As Mercy, Sara Richardson gives a winning performance, with her mincing walk and her Charlie Chaplin chapeau.  Myself, I found her a touch automaton-ish, but then I’m not 6 years old.  Every time Richardson made an entrance childish delight rippled through the auditorium.  The kids adored her.  She carries the show.

And I adored Gerald Drake and Mo Perry as her beaming 1950s parents: Drake with the loud shirts and the impossible haircut and the be-coifed and be-crinolined Perry.  As Eugenia, Wendy Lehr is a blue-haired marvel, simultaneously nasty and funny.  Elizabeth Griffith reprises her Babe, The Sheep Pig role as the sweet next-door neighbor.  Her combination of youth and maturity continues to amaze.  The rotund and charming Jason Ballweber plays a number of roles here, all excellent.

Then there’s Reed Sigmund, a longtime CTC company member who, as always, shamelessly mugs his way though the play – but, Lord, he’s funny, especially as Francine.  Her first scene had me screaming.  Whose idea was it to give Francine those girlish red gloves?  They’re perfect.

Victoria Stewart has penned a sharp and smart adaptation of the book series by Kate DiCamillo; Stewart is not afraid of repetitive child-centric material, to her great credit.

I would recommend Mercy Watson To The Rescue but with a big caveat: it’s for young children.  Grown-ups are likely to become frustrated by the lack of meaningful character development and the extreme predictability of the story.  So get hold of some kids and go.  They’ll have a great time and you’ll have a great time watching them.

And be prepared to walk out of the theater with a powerful hankering for buttered toast.

For more information about John Olive, please visit his website.



1 comment for “Mercy Watson To The Rescue at Childrens Theatre Co.

  1. October 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I watched this with the children fom triton and it was so funny i say you do it again

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