UPDATE: “The Imaginators” has had to cancel the shows for April 21 and April 22 because of construction at Highland Mall.
What happens when a brother and sister are new to town and meet their imaginative neighbor? The stories unfold in a garage full of boxes, waiting to be unpacked in “The Imaginators.”
“The Imaginators” is the newest theater for families play at Austin Playhouse. It’s an ode to the importance of children continuing to tell stories and using their imaginations. Older sister Anne (Jess Hughes) is skeptical of neighbor Nina’s zest for the imagination. Anne wants to play with Nina, but she’d rather they go on her computer in her room or write down stories. Meanwhile, brother Tim (Chase Brewer) is all in with the zany world that Nina (Griselda Silva) creates. He’s a dreamer himself.
But they all get on the imagination train as Nina tells the story of her older brother William (Harold Fisch). When William comes over to look for Nina, Nina turns him into the Mooklecratz, a child-eating monster. Anne becomes the queen in charge of a magical kingdom. Together, they must fight Mooklecratz.
The fun begins when they feel the Mooklecratz’s breath or see his red eyes or see his tail rise up. The set, which is just a bunch of boxes, comes an active part of the storytelling. Kids are on the edge of their seat waiting to see where the Mooklecratz will pop up next.
The beginning of the story takes patience, something our school audience didn’t have. They squirmed and sighed as actors went through page after page of dialogue. Important messages were delivered about being weird and embracing it, about not fitting in, about family dynamics, but it all felt a little preachy. Once the monster (who isn’t very scary) starts to appear, though, the audience’s attention was fully drawn to the stage.
The best part was after the play was over. The kids got to ask questions. Many wanted to know how the monster is done: How did the smoke get made? How did the red eyes work? How did the tail rise up? Where did the monster disappear when they moved the boxes? Fisch brought out the props and Silva showed them just how people can disappear behind the stage.
It was a lesson in the magic of theater delivered.
For elementary-school age.
When: 2 p.m. April 15 and 22, noon April 21.
Where: Austin Playhouse at Austin Community College’s Highland Campus., 6001 Airport Blvd. (Follow the signs to the south entrance of the building.)
Tickets: Free, but make reservations.