Reviewed by Joseph Michael Mishler
Meadow Brook Theatre likes to start its theatre season with a scary show. This year they chose Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. We attended the play near the end of its run. This season the theatre itself has a new look. There are new, very comfortable seats, carpeting, and railings .
Before the play, the Artistic Director Travis Walters, dressed as a circus MC, talked with the audience. He welcomed everyone, explained upcoming events, and thanked a variety of donors. This is traditional at Meadow Brook. Unfortunately, Mr. Walters ended by explaining a play that needed no explanation. I love to watch the play unfold and figure it out for myself and believe I am not alone on this point.
The set was wonderful and very actor friendly. Downstage was the main street of a town with building facades and behind it was the outline of a circus. The double set was interesting and intriguing. A huge moving Ferris wheel behind everything dominated the set.
Generations of young and old alike love the fair and the circus. When they come to town they offer opportunities to take a break from the boredom of everyday life. In Bradbury’s play there is the chance that an adult could become a kid again.
The two leads in the show, Will and Jim, are on the verge of being 14. They looked like typical young teenagers. It was gutsy of Meadow Brook to put the show in the hands of such young actors. Jim (Jacob Zelinski) was the curious one and Will (Ryan Lynch) the cautious one. It was sometimes difficult to hear and understand the boys, and although they gave it their all, they were not very spontaneous. They had a strong supporting cast, but right from the beginning something didn’t seem quite right with the play.
The suspense and mystery of the play was erratic, as was the spontaneity. Mr. Dark (Aaron Alpern) playing evil was good, but seemed held back by something. Mr. Halloway (Marty Smith) played Will’s father who wanted to be a kid again. He was the strongest of the adults in terms of presentation. The actor who was selling lighting rods at the beginning of the story was also strong. I am not sure they were even held together by the script.
A struggle between good and evil flowed through the play, and, at times, evil seemed to hold all the advantages. In the end, Mr. Halloway, using his Librarian skills, figured out how to outwit evil and save the boys and the town.
Two others are worth mentioning; the teacher, Miss Foley (Nancy-Elizabeth Kammer), played a strong part as did “Dust Witch” (Lisa Lauren Smith), who was unique and added a special touch.
Costumes were great, looking like a sample of what might be seen at a fair or circus. The carousel was a stunning effect and should have been used a bit more. Overall, special effects were fun and exciting.
Meadow Brook can be commended for this attempt to present such a sweeping story. In my imagination it was possible to smell the popcorn, cotton candy, and the whole collection of smells that accompanied the circuses I remember as a kid. However, although the play was interesting, I kept wanting and waiting for something more that never quite did arrive.
Something Wicked This Way Comes was performed from October 5- October 30, 2011.