The Cat in the Hat at the Children’s Theatre Company

DNP_6884_mChildren’s Theatre Company has just opened a show for the little ones with the Katie Mitchell adaptation of the definitive book by Dr. Seuss, “The Cat in the Hat.” For the two or three people who may not know the story, a boy (Douglas Neithercott) and a girl, Sally (Elise Langer) are stuck inside the house on a rainy day with nothing to do, until the Cat in the Hat appears and creates a lot of fun—and a little too much chaos for their parental pet fish.  This production faithfully follows the look of the book (one-syllable rhymes are infectious)—down to a perfect color match of costumes and props.

In this story, the children play the “straight” roles. One would think that the Cat is the funny man—and he is. But I saw the production with my two-year-old granddaughter (her first experience with live theater) and I learned a few things. The biggest laugh of the night was the fish shooshing the two kids to be quiet. Cat in the Hat makes his entrance and gets an enthusiastic acknowledgement. (“A cat da hat!”) Then more uproarious laughter—for the talking fish.

“Kinsee,” I asked her after the show. “What did the Cat in the Hat have on his head?”

“Birthday cake!” she shouted, and launched into a round of ‘Happy Birthday to you.’ “It your birthday soon!” She tells me, which is true. She got to eat cupcakes at an early birthday party, so this made an impression. She sprawled across her daddy, peering around the people in front of her to follow the progress of the Cat’s amazing balancing act, who was at last rewarded with “Woh!”

Just “woh!”

The boy does a dance, so she did, too. Thing 1 and Thing 2 (Ana Christine Evans and Diogo Lopes) had her scrambling up on Daddy’s lap for a safer perch, but she soon warmed up to them. Every crash offstage got a big laugh, probably as much because the kids around her were laughing, and the Things chasing around with kites—disappearing and reappearing—is always reliable schtick for kids.

This is the kind of production the Children’s Theatre does well, making good use of the talents of CTC veterans Dean Holt as the Cat in the Hat and Gerald Drake as Fish, and adding the talents of actors experienced in physical comedy, most notably Langer and Lopes. Jason Ballweber, who also has a track record in physical theater, directs the show.

While the play is charming, just the right length at 50 minutes and a delightful family outing, I was waiting for the direct interaction with the audience (and I think the kids were, too), which didn’t happen until after curtain call. But this approach also helped to establish the world of the play as something to sit and watch, which makes sense in a room full of toddlers.

“The Cat in the Hat” runs through July 27.

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