Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Taproots "Old Play" Feels Young

Allie Pratt and Chris Ensweiler in Mr. Pim Passes By
Photo: Erik Stuhaug

Who knew that the creator of Winnie the Pooh what such a witty author? (Well, anyone who actually read the children’s books as an adult would have. Children cannot appreciate the subtleties of droll humor.) Mr. Pim Passes By, just one of the many plays that you have never heard of by A.A. Milne, could actually open the doors to a new revival of his work. Though produced in 1920, the play’s sarcasm, wit and storyline feels very contemporary and is a total delight all the way through. The play is silly fun but it does bring up the argument that not every situation in life is completely wrong or completely right. Sometimes doing the “right” thing could be the very worst thing you could do.

Ryan Childers and April Poland as George and Olivia Marden
in "Mr. Pim Passes By."
Mr. Pim is a romantic comedy which plays out more like a long version of the telephone game where one person whisper a phrase to another and by the time it gets to the end, it no longer resembles its original form. The plot is simple and yet convoluted. Mr. Pim stops by the home of George Marden who is married to Olivia. Living with them is George's niece Dinah, whom he has a fatherly love for. Pim (Chris Ensweiler) is to see George (Ryan Childers) for business reasons or something (it doesn’t really matter why) but is intercepted by Dinah (Allie Pratt) who is more than happy to chat with the stranger. Why waiting for George to come home, Dinah introduces Pim to her “new” fiancĂ©e, Brian Strange (Daniel Stoltenberg), as the two had just become engaged the night before. Olivia (April Poland) arrives on the scene with her new drapes that she is sewing. George hates them, but she continues on as if he doesn’t. Soon, we meet George, an uptight man full of tradition and afraid of change. His aunt, Lady Marden (Kim Morris) comes for lunch and is just as uptight as he is. Now, through in a simple innocent statement or two from Mr. Pim, suddenly, this small world is about to come crashing apart.

Ryan Childers and Allie Pratt
Mr. Pim Passes By, Taproot Theatre Company’s first show of the season, features Chris Ensweiler in his first role for Taproot. Ensweiler has performed all over the Seattle area including Seattle Repertory Theatre and Village Theatre. Though the title character of the play, one could argue that Mr. Pim could have used a bit more “Pim.” Ensweiler’s portrayal of the character is a delight to watch. His subtle mannerisms, such as the fact that he only sits when the others in the room have sat first and the business of his calling cards is reminiscent of Elwood P. Dowd from Harvey, but Ensweiler does a good job of making the character his own.

Chris Ensweiler
While a good example of an ensemble production (there’s not a weak one in the bunch), the strength of the play rests on the shoulders of April Poland and Ryan Childers (Olivia and George Marden). Poland gives some of the best playful glances that shows the audience that she knows more than what she is letting on while she makes her husband simmer in his own bad ideas. Childers, a favorite of Taproot fans, portrays the perfect image of a man wound up too tight. Pratt is delightful as the super sweet teenage Dinah, mood swings and all. With her heart-shaped lipstick, the girl talks so fast you can’t be sure that you heard everything that she said, but that appears to be the point. Special kudos to Mark Lund for another great set design too!

Mr. Pim continue through March 1 at Taproot Theatre located at 204. N. 8th Street, Seattle, 98103. Tickets range from $15-$40. Seniors and students can expect $5 off all regularly priced tickets and those ages 25 and under can get in for just $15. Tickets can be purchased by calling 206.781.9707, through email or at the box office. 

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