Gentle Giant

The Selfish Giant

By Kristin Walter, based on the fairy tale by Oscar Wilde
Music and Lyrics by Larisa Bryski
Directed by Bruce Merrill
Vital Theatre Company
432 West 42nd St., 3rd floor (592-4508)
Non-union production (Sat. at 11:00 a.m.; closes Feb. 26)
Review by Julie Halpern

Will the next generation of theatregoers be sacrified on the altar of computer games and Barney? Judging by the standing room crowds at Vital Theatre's innaugural children's theatre production - on the coldest Saturday of the year it might be added - it's safe to assume that children and their parents still love good theatre. Kristin Walters's charming adaptation of Oscar Wilde's fairytale about a giant who builds a wall around his garden so no children can play there is as relevant for millennial children as it was to Wilde's Victorian readers. The giant doesn't realize that without the sound of children's laughter, spring will never come, and he must suffer winter throughout the year. He is redeemed when the very children he banished from the garden risk his anger and scale the fence to the garden, restoring it to springtime once again.

Director Bruce Merrill earned top marks for his high-energy pacing, guiding his game, attractive cast through complicated, fast-paced maneuvers in a small space and making it look easy. Kristy Castora, Cara Pontillo, Jennifer Ronald, and Michael Schiffer as the kids grabbed the audience's attention and maintained it throughout - not easy with the world's toughest audience. Ryan Paulson's soft-spoken, lonely Giant - not the bellowing tyrant one might have expected - instantly endeared himself to the audience. Castora, Pontillo, Ronald and Schiffer executed choreographer Stephanie Sowa's delightful fantasy of Snow, Frost, Wind and Hail with flair, enhanced by Sowa's flowing pastel costumes. Larisa Bryski's uplifting music was quite effective, but the singers seemed uncomfortable singing in such a low key.

Michael Schloegl's simple, ingenious set utilized styrofoam hail, silver paper cutouts as snowflakes, and confetti as snow, dropped from the light loft. By the end of the play, the stage looked as colorful and cluttered as a successful children's birthday party.
Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 2
Acting: 1
Set: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 Julie Halpern