By Oscar Wilde, adapted by Kate Hennig.
Directed by Christine Brubaker.
At the Court House Theatre. Till October 7, 2017

Marion Day, Sanjay Talwar and Kelly Wong in “The Selfish Giant” 

Kate Hennig’s loving adaptation of four Oscar Wilde tales is set in an elegant garden of the imagination, with storybook décor and costumes by Jennifer Goodman, lighting by Siobhan Sleath, and music and sound by John Gzowski. Six performers exercise their acting skills, aided at times by a group of kids drawn from the audience, and who hold flowers to be added to the garden. The show is a charming, benevolent, and wise collection of parables that offer uplifting instruction about such things as kindness, beauty, and love while carrying us into situations where some of the worst aspects of human nature are on display. The neglected statue of the Happy Prince understands that “there is no Mystery so great as Misery,” and it is a group of children who recognize his suffering. In “The Nightingale and the Rose,” a little bird helps a student in pain over unrequited love by impaling itself on a thorn bush to give birth to a rose that the lovelorn youth can offer to his beloved. And in “The Selfish Giant,” a small, tearful, frustrated boy brings about a spiritual conversion of the mean creature. Hennig incorporates quotations and epigrams from other writing by Wilde to bolster both pain and joy, but the children’s tales hardly need such additional instruction, though the sentences are beautifully shaped.

Hennig and director Christine Brubaker know that nuggets of moral insight need not be heavy or unpalatable. Their 55-minute show uses puppetry in offering a garden of delightful fun, with the generous support of a worthy cast. Sanjay Talwar’s hilariously self-aggrandizing, chronically garrulous Remarkable Rocket (a pre-Trumpian buffoon of brazen egotism) becomes the common thread joining one tale to another, but all the other performers also leave a strong impression. While Marion Day doesn’t really have the crazy, rapid spin for her Catherine Wheel in the first story, her White Duck (mother to three toy ducklings) is charmingly maternal later, and her Happy Prince (in royal male regalia) is a triumph theatrically and morally. Jonathan Tan gets good fun out of Frog, and Kelly Wong finds saving goodness in the Selfish Giant. P.J. Prudat and Emily Lukasik complement them admirably.


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