A CHILD’S GARDEN OF INNOCENCE

Shelterbelt explores families through the words of children


The playing space is dominated by a massive fence. It surrounds the only territory for Mickey and Sage, currently revealed at Shelterbelt Theatre. There is another interior territory, however, covering more than what is immediately visible and audible. Two children, contained and restricted within that wall, remain sweet, charming and amusing while other parts of their lives beyond their physical boundaries harbor sorrow. They will survive.

You watch them play and entertain themselves, happily not aware of what is happening to them without their assent. Thus has playwright Sara Farrington created a remarkably subtle script that provokes your thinking. Her imaginatively original concept depends on you to grasp the connections she sets up. You may begin by being captivated and end up elsewhere, provoked and disturbed. Meanwhile her wonderful dialogue abounds in laughs, capturing what such youngsters would say and how they’d say it.  Admire Farrington for what she has done.

The 90 minute, multi-episode play focuses on two kids. The boy, Mickey, hovers on teen-hood. Sage, the  girl, is nine.  They have been put together by their separate parents, his Dad and her mother. Those adults have unnamed activities inside Sage’s adjacent house. The children cannot witness whatever that is. So they find amusement peering beyond their confining enclosure by spying on neighbors. Especially recently widowed and presumably scary Harvey. Observe, e.g , implications of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. As the kids talk and say unintentionally funny things, they reveal how different are their lives when they are not together. And they tell each other further details which they are too young to understand. 

Because Farrington has planted many telling details growing outside this yard, I’ll leave you to make your own discoveries.

Director Ben Beck and his cast have found perfect ways to portray the characters, never obvious, never forced. The pacing, the timing stays flawless. Michael Markey stands out as the sorrowful, vulnerable Harvey, a different dimension of sweetness than that of Mickey and Sage. Greg Harries and Kaitlen Maher interpret those children. Young adult actors themselves, although believable in what they say and how they say it, they and Beck have not thoroughly developed the restless, unfocused physicality inherent in the roles, nor enough of the delightful innocence that goes along with uncontrolled blurting out of whatever crosses such youthful minds. Thus in the final scene taking place a few years later, the actors have not captured changes in age, not seeming much older or different, as if neither Mickey nor Sage have learned much about themselves and about life in the intervening years.

If you are a parent, you may find uncomfortable what lies beneath the surface outside the fence. Farrington’s program book essay explores that. She’s a mother herself, she tells you. And she has extensive writing credits. You can learn about them at http://www.ladyfarrington.com/. As for what she evokes here on this stage, you may also learn about yourself.   

Mickey & Sage continues through November 2 at Shelterbelt Theatre, 3225 California St. Omaha. Thurs-Sat: 8 p.m. Sun: 2 p.m. Tickets: $10-$15. www.shelterbelt.org


Category: Art, Literary
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