First Stage: “A Wrinkle in Time”
After seeing First Stage Theater’s A Wrinkle in Time, I left feeling a bit wrinkled myself. Madeleine L’Engle’s sci-fi classic novel for children is a challenging read in its own right, and John Glore’s adaption didn’t quite translate for me. That novel was my gateway drug into the vast and mysterious world fantasy; perhaps my expectations for the stage were too high.
Wrinkle tells the story of Meg Murray (played on opening night by Erin Stapleton) and her younger brother Charles Wallace (James Mulloly) and their magical quest to rescue their father. Along with neighbor Calvin (Nathan Kluge) and three mysterious strangers, the young heroes cross over to other worlds by travelling through tesseracts, wrinkles in time that shorten travel by bending space and time.
Director Mark Metcalf, who conceived the production, led a vibrant cast through the murky mystery of a challenging show. The cast and lighting design meet the level of excellence we’ve come to expect from First Stage. The Space cast of children (they alternate with the Time cast) did a fantastic job of telling a challenging story with their words and bodies.
The added element of on-set live sound was also engaging, sometimes more than what was happening a level down on the stage floor. There, a large, domed jungle gym obscured most of the stage and created some frustrating viewing difficulties.
Overall, Wrinkle is more like performance art than theater. The experience combined beautiful movement, choreographed by Kelly Anderson, with booming vocal choruses and erratic flashes of light and thunder during the tesseracts. These moments showcased the young performers as they twisted and tumbled through the hands of the adult actors. Their youthful and limber bodies tumbled through minor storms of life in a space free of gravity, space and time. I’ve rarely seen dance used so well in a play. But even in these passages, that jungle gym was in some respects in the way.
Even though I’ve read the book, I found the story a little hard to follow. But maybe that’s not the main thing, here. Maybe the main things are the sights, sounds and feel of the thing, the wonder of it all. The children in the audience certainly didn’t seem to share any of my concerns. They seemed happy to go with the sci-fi cosmic flow.