Reviewed by Shelly L. Hoffman
Clio Cast & Crew’s production of Monster in the Closet, written by Angela D. Stewart, premiered Friday night to a receptive audience of parents and friends, some of whom could be clearly seen capturing every lasting moment of it with their video cameras.
This is a children’s show for which director Cindy Hubbard has chosen to exclusively use young people, even for the adult roles. Furthermore, as indicated in her program notes, she used everyone who auditioned (which amounted to over 50 participants), fashioning a rather cumbersome, yet clever, curtain speech and the addition of dance teams of monsters who performed prior to the start of each act and to close the show. Additionally, some roles (including principal ones) have been double-cast with actors performing over just one of the two weekends the show runs.
Monster in the Closet relates the story of Murray (Levi Peabody), a rather hapless monster who occupies the messy closet of Emily (Mikayla Maier). She and her friend, Stephanie, played strongly by Samantha Beauchamp, encounter Murray one night as he tries to sneak out to play Emily’s new video game.
Meanwhile, Murray is sanctioned by the Dream King (John Rak) and his factotum, Toady (Rochelle Dula) for allowing himself to be seen not only by the child he is charged with guarding but by her friend as well. Rak and Dula bring life and welcome volume to the Theatre 57 stage. Other standout performances come from the very young Clara Usealman and Jacob Hynes as the delightful dream weavers Robin and Jamie.
Emily and Stephanie enlist the help of some of their friends to try to catch the monster and the real action happens as the young girls stake out Emily’s bedroom and capture more than they bargained for.
The bright costumes and makeup of the monsters create a vibrancy on the stage and work well with the realistic and very lavender set. Kudos to Set Dresser Jan Helfrich who really captured the essence of a young girl’s bedroom with the thoughtful placement of knick-knacks and a closet full of clothes. As the closet is a focal point of the show, this nice attention to detail was quite noticeable.
While patrons were greeted upon entering the theatre with upbeat and fun music, it was sadly missing from lengthy and inexplicable scene breaks, where we were left in the dark for significant periods of time. These sorts of subtle audio cues might be a better way to indicate to the audience when it’s appropriate to applaud, rather than the director (or someone close to the show) sitting in the back and clapping loudly to lead the way. The lights seemed to be problematic throughout the production as well, coming up, at times in a startling fashion. It’s a shame these technical aspects were overlooked as there were obviously many talented youth on the stage who were giving their best effort to entertain.
Feeling, at times, like an episode of H.R. Pufnstuf, Monster in the Closet is mildly comedic. The fun factor of brightly colored and friendly monsters, alone, is not to be overlooked. The actual jokes, though, are few and far between. Each of the characters is merely an archetype and the playwright offers no useful message other than, perhaps, the lighthearted “Go clean your room.” Still, parents and small children will enjoy it.
There is clearly a need for an outlet for children’s involvement in theatre in Clio, as attested to by the fifty-some kids who auditioned. Congratulations to Clio Cast & Crew for attempting to fill that void.
Performances continue March 22, 28, and 29 at 7:30 pm and March 23 and 30 at 2:00 pm at Theatre 57, 2220 W. Vienna Rd. in Clio. Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for students, and can be purchased online at www.cliocastandcrew.com or by calling (810) 687-2588.