When a very involved and well-known children’s story is compressed into an hour-long work of art on stage, it’s always magical to see everything boiled down to the barest essentials. The MainStreet Theatre’s production of James and the Giant Peach is no exception. Using two important notions—that kids have no shortage of imagination, and the stage is all about imagination—this production of Roald Dahl’s classic book has been placed in good hands with an adaptation from “children’s dramatist” David Wood and direction from theater vet Mark Rucker (South Coast Repertory Theater, Yale Repertory). With inventive use of puppets, projections, shadows and balloons (always popular with youngsters), this version of Peach is perfectly-paced to hold the attention of children and adults alike. Colorful sets and zany costumes make for visual appeal and stage vibrancy. The story is narrated in retrospect by James and his insect companions—most notably the blind pessimistic earthworm, hilariously played by John David-Keller. Wood succeeds admirably in savoring the book’s quirky dark humor while keeping things active for those unused to sitting still.
“It’s so satisfying to do theater for kids,” says Rucker. “Introducing theater to people who either haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it much, is kind of an amazing experience.”
Founded in 2006 by the city of Rancho Cucamonga, the MainStreet Theatre Company (in residence at the Lewis Family Playhouse) is devoted to providing that introduction and if the other two productions of the season—A Year with Frog & Toad and Ferdinand the Bull— match this one, then there’s a lot of magic coming soon to IE. (Red Vaughn)
James and the Giant Peach at the MainStreet Theatre at the Lewis Family Playhouse at the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center, 12505 Cultural Center Drive, Rancho Cucamonga, (877) 858-8422; www.lewisfamilyplayhouse.com; Through Nov. 1, Sat. at 1:00PM and 4:00PM; Sun. matinee 1:00PM on Oct. 26. Tickets: $13.50–$16.50