The Snowy Day and other stories by Ezra Jack Keats at the Children’s Theatre Company

Mikell Sapp. Joy Dolo and Dean Holt in The Snowy Day. Photo: Dan Norman

Mikell Sapp. Joy Dolo and Dean Holt in The Snowy Day. Photo: Dan Norman.

As adults, it is easy to forget how exciting and new things now mundane once were. Through the eyes of a child, even the most simple of things – snowfalls, found pairs of goggles, friendly neighborhood dogs – seem magical. The world premier of The Snowy Day and other stories by Ezra Jack Keats (now at The Children’s Theatre Company, through March 20) by Jerome Hairston celebrates an author who was masterful at both provoking awe in young readers and inviting older readers to fondly remember simpler times through innocent eyes.

The stories are made up of several common childhood events, from learning how to whistle to mailing a letter, in the life of a young boy in the city named Peter–each story corresponding to a season. While there are no grandiose tales of magic and adventure, the vignettes nevertheless brim with excitement. To young kids, everything is bigger and more momentous, so it is fitting for this play to consistently magnify the spirited emotions and wonder of its growing young protagonist.

The curious protagonist is played with jubilant energy by 2015 Ivey Award winner for Emerging Artist Mikkel Sapp, who fuels each broad emotional swing, from utter joy to deep frustration, with an energy and physicality fitting for a young child. His energy is matched by his two fellow players, Joy Dolo and Dean Holt, who both endearingly portray a wide variety of characters as well as provide narration. All three of the actors also provide sound effects and do much of the puppetry work, all of which is impressive.

In keeping with the spirit of the classic works, this original adaptation directed by Peter C. Brosius invites imagination through a playful mix of puppetry, shadows, and live action. Evocative of the books’ beautiful illustrations, the scenery by Fabrizio Montecchi also plays a substantial part in the story. Keats’s illustrations are projected on large, occasionally moving screens, and the actors often use puppets to tell the stories of Peter as he grows. The fun, creative set and gorgeous lighting design by Paul Whitaker are helpful for adult audiences to maintain engagement in these simple, fairly thin stories. For children, if our fellow viewers were any indication, these designs will prove entrancing.

Over its years, The Children’s Theatre Company has provided experiences built for various aged audiences, and this show certainly skews younger – to elementary-aged kids who are experiencing the world with fresh eyes, lacking deeper commentary. While this ultimately makes for a slight (and short–only 65 minutes) experience, the show is nevertheless good-hearted and charming. The Snowy Day will undoubtedly allow parents of young children the opportunity to witness the simple joys and triumphs of life through the eyes of their own children as well as remind all of us of the purity and modesty with which we once approached the world. One could think of much less pleasant ways to spend an evening.

David and Chelsea Berglund review movies on their site Movie Matrimony.

1 comment for “The Snowy Day and other stories by Ezra Jack Keats at the Children’s Theatre Company

  1. Steven LaVigne
    February 16, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    A few years ago when I was in New York, I took the A Train to visit the Cloisters. When I was finished there, I took a bus to 93rd Street. I was surprised to see a gas station on 110th Street, because you just don’t see them in Manhattan. I went to the Jewish Museum, where I had a marvelous lunch of Pastrami, Blintzes and Latkes. Then I saw an exhibit on Ezra Jack Keats, an artist and writer I’ve long admired, and when I was teaching, had as my February Author of the Month. One of my proudest classroom creations was a book my students did using EJK art to tell the story of the Underground Railroad. I’m so thrilled that CTC is doing this show and bringing these marvelous stories to life on the stage! Bravo!

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