The Emperor's Ears
Talespinner Children's Theatre
When a gaggle of country folk are given a looking glass, you'd think they'd be happy. Turns out, not so much—in the delightful children's play The Emperor's Ears, now at the Talespinner Children's Theatre. This adaptation of a Serbian folktale by Michael Sepesy has plenty of humor, heart and audience participation, so that even the slow spots don't mar the charming story it presents. Once the townspeople start seeing themselves in the mirror, they are horrified to see that they're really ugly. Says one to the peddler who brought the glass, "How dare you depress us with the sight of our own faces!" To mollify them, the peddler (an enthusiastic Katelyn Cornelius) tells them the title story, about an emperor's son who was born with goat ears. As directed by Alison Garrigan, the six-person ensemble performs with verve and specificity. While not as visually stimulating as some TCT productions, Ears is well-structured and keeps the story uppermost, a good thing so that the youngest patrons can stay connected to the action.
Through July 6, produced by Talespinner Children's Theatre at the Reinberger Auditorium, 5209 Detroit Ave., 216-264-9680
The Lantern Theatre
Are you sorry you never got to see plays put on in a barn, the ones like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney always launched? Well fret not. There's a big red bard in Valley View that is the site of a lovely 45-minute production, perfect for the whole family. It is John Henry written by accomplished Cleveland playwright Eric Schmiedl, and it's happening at The Lantern Theatre on Canal Road, just a few pedal pumps away from the Towpath bike trail. This theater, now in its second summer of operations, is housed in a barn built in 1905, and features a 40-foot-high room that once served as a hayloft. Now it's a stage for a tidy production focusing on the legend of the title character, the famous steel-drivin' man. It opens with a couple period folk tunes strummed out by Bobby Williams, who plays the title role, and Bill Hoffman who plays Hopper, John Henry's pal and "shaker." The story is narrated by Elijah (a wide-eyed Terrell Richardson, Jr.), who also interacts with the other two as a young man eager to "do something" and not just go back to school. Whether you drive to the theater or include it as part of a family bike hike and picnic, it's a very special treat.
Through July 28 at the Lantern Theatre, Saturdays at 1 and 3 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, at the corner of Canal Road and Tinker's Creek Road in Valley View, 216-401-5131
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Cleveland Shakespeare Festival
Sometimes resembling a track meet, and at other times a wrestling match, Two Gentlemen of Verona produced by the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival is a mostly untrammeled pleasure. This comedy, directed with inventive flair and a great sense of pure fun by Pandora Robertson, is now making the repertory CSF tour around town, paired with Measure for Measure (which will be reviewed here next week). The light story of Valentine and Proteus, and their entangled romances, is a splendid platform for various kinds of hijinks. And a consistently on-the-mark cast delivers Shakespeare's wry musings while fulfilling their daily aerobic allotment—marching and running around and through the audience during the entire 90-minute piece. Joseph Dunn as Valentine and Kyle Huff as Proteus have the good looks and stage presence to essay these two love muffins, while Hillary Wheelock's Silvia exudes a nice combination of come-hither sexiness and aloofness. This is free theater, all you have to do is show up and sit down (on the lawn chair or blanket you brought). And that makes for a damn fine summer evening.
Through August 4 at various outdoor venues, check schedule at cleveshakes.com