The Theater School at DePaul University has another hit on its hands for young kids with the production of The Coral King, presented at the downtown Reskin Theater, 60 E Balbo Drive.
The Coral King has a large cast that makes great use of the stage, aisles, and rallying the kids in a call-and-response style to keep the energy high throughout the 70-minute show.
Most importantly, kids were laughing and giggling throughout the performance. There were many opportunities for interaction with the audience, which will leave good impressions of theatre on the young minds in attendance.
The plot juxtaposes a mermaid’s life in an enchanted underwater kingdom with an above-water plantation run by three siblings. Pierre (the talented Chris Ash) is the youngest brother who must protect the kingdom’s riches from his greedy siblings Fleurette and Napoleon, played wickedly by Meredith Johnson and Andrew Fleischer. And throughout the production all eyes were glued to the gorgeous and glittery Sonaz Izadi, the mermaid who longed to be human.
Before the play opens, a blue “water cat” lays motionless on the edge of the stage. The set is vibrant and colorful, starting with blue hinting at the underwater themes. Costumed characters vary from red octopi, a blue cat, brown-clothed humans, green plants, and a big white pearl. Throughout the play, many cast members run down the aisles with streamers, immersing the audience in the action. The audience whooshes interactively to blow the seashell transforming the beach land down into an enchanted Arabesque underwater world.
The playful, fast-paced script lovingly describes the mysteries and wonder of the water and the people and animals who share it.
It elevates the grizzled old figure of a beach comber to hero status. In his colorful soliloquies, Billiam Bones (played by the talented Eric Staves, with a dual role as the King) combs through our imagination and helps us think what is really important in life:
"A beachcomber combs beaches. A beach comb. I comb beaches for pretty shells, flotsam and jetsam, jotsam and fletsam, bottles with messages in them, treasure maps, pearls, mermaids' hair, seabirds, feathers, crab nippers, jellyfish stings...oh, a great many valuable things you can't buy in shops."
The show also has a moral thread and ample lessons on how to be a good person: Do we submit to greed and selfishness under peer pressure? Do we take from the environment? Are we trustworthy of friends?
As the dramaturgy notes: “Can you think of times when greed may have caused someone to behave badly? What about a time when someone’s greed may have caused damage to the environment around them?”
On the way out of the theatre, a mother was overheard asking her young kids these questions. Their interest in answering said it all.
The Coral King is the 299th production in the DePaul theater’s history. Reskin Theater is at 60 E Balbo Drive and has been there (under several names) since 1910.
Tickets are available by calling 312-922-1999 or online at https://www.choicesecure03.net/mainapp/eventschedule.aspx?Clientid=DepaulUniv&prod=P313
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE THEATER SCHOOL AT DEPAUL UNIVERSITY