June 19, 2013
Written by Joanne Greco Rochman
Thursday, 17 January 2013 14:01
There’s nothing “Mickey Mouse” about the inaugural work at the Stray Kats Theatre Company in Newtown. And yet, literally, there’s a lot of Mickey Mouse, Jiminy Cricket, Bambi, and Dumbo here.
When two giants in the arts like Walt Disney and Igor Stravinsky first meet, their worlds seem light years apart. In Frederick Stroppel’s play “Small World: A Fantasia,” the difference between a classical music composer and an animator are so vast that it seems unlikely that these two artists could ever put their distinctly different works together. The immediate source of conflict is that Stravinsky insists that his masterpiece “Le Sacre du Printemps” — “The Rite of Spring” is a complete story in itself and it is about the peasants in Russia. Disney insists that his “Fantasia” vision of volcanoes erupting and dinosaurs clashing is a perfect interpretation of Stravinsky’s music.
“We’re interpreting. Which is what all artists do, isn’t it?” asks Disney. This question gets to the heart of the issue regarding the arts. Since so much art, especially plays, is adapted, adopted, and re-interpreted, one has to think about the process of adding a new dimension to an art form. In this case, Disney is adding a visual to the music. Add to this the conflict of an artist who sees himself as a purist and an artist who sees himself as a commercial success and the gap between art and commerce increases exponentially.
Stroppel adds plenty of humor in his work as he pits one great mind against the other in a fast and free flowing barrage of insults. He also offers plenty of insight and details about each of the two geniuses, including their moral character, to keep the audience informed while thoroughly entertained. Well conceived, the play moves smoothly and effortlessly. The resolution not only suggests that true greatness lives on into eternity, but that art and commerce do come together with many benefits. Still, if one thinks about the cleverly appropriate title for this play, when it all comes down to money, even art, then indeed, it’s a very “small” world.
Directed by the artistic director of the Stray Kats Theatre Company, Kate Katcher, “Small World” is the perfect work for the theater’s first full production. This play, which appeals equally to the high brow symphony aficionado as well as to cartoon lovers, is a winner with a long and happy future. Katcher’s directorial signature is apparent throughout the strongly unified production. It is as classic as it is distinctly clean and uncluttered. She also managed to cast two actors who are simply perfect for the roles they play.
Scott Bryce, an American film and television actor best known for his work on “As the World Turns,” plays Walt Disney with an open air of nonchalance and intentionally understated brilliance. It works. Bryce portrays Disney with such honesty that he captures the animator’s creative gift through modesty and frankness. One could easily believe that he/she is watching Mr. Walt Disney here.
Robert Resnikoff steps into the role of Igor Stravinsky with a fiery nature and blatant superiority complex. Since Stravinsky changes so much from the first to the second scene, Resnikoff manages to accomplish the change without changing character. Resnikoff has many stage and screen credits as well as many voice-overs. He has presented classical music on WSHU for years.
Jennifer Rogers is the technical director. Though no credit was given to costumes or set designer, everything in this production works like a charm. This is the first full blown production for this theater. If this is an indication of what is to come, then do bring it on. Kudos to all who worked in and on this production. “Small World” plays weekends through Jan. 27. The theater is located in the Alexandria Room in the Edmond Town Hall in Newtown. Box office: 203-514-2221.
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