Dream Child is another hit for the small theatre on State-written, directed, etc. by Jana Lynne Cox. But unlike other shows at the Children's Theatre, including Busytown - the best kid's plays I've seen this year, Dream delivers a more serious message minus the bells and whistles.
In fact, the opening is set with only two lights shining on the stage area and a teddy bear sitting in the background. The low-key atmosphere forces more focus on the story, which writer and director Jana Lynne Cox says is " story that needs to be told."
Doctors discovered Julie Anne Rees, Jana's twin sister, had an arachnoid cyst at a young age. It led to seizures, muscle weakness and a lot of attention from her parents and doctors.
Jana wrote the play about Karen and Erin, another set of twins in the same situation, and loosely based it on her own life. Karen feels left out when Erin is given special attention, plus Erin is an embarrassment on the playground. The only place Karen can escape and live her life "normally" is her dreams (which usually turn to songs for the audience). Thus, the play earns the title Dream Child. In the end, Karen decides if she will befriend her sister despite the condition and extra attention/embarrassing moments or not.
Jana wrote the play about 19 years ago when she was 18, and it debuted at Taylorsville High School. She won the Very Special Arts National Young Playwright's Competition, and the show was produced at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Lucy Holmgren, the elementary-age Karen and lead, delivered admirably with her snappy, angst toward Erin and life in general. She made the crowd feel Karen's jealousy and embarrassment. And even if they tried to hide it, almost everyone welled up when Karen snapped at Erin (Sarah Cassell), "I told you not to bother me when I'm with my friends!" The true sign of a great actor is when the audience stops seeing the actor and just the role. She's well on her way.
My favorite scenes: In a dream, the doctor (Bryce Isaacson) says Karen will die in a coma, and her parents suddenly turn their attention away from Erin to her. Karen dreams she's a queen with the power to send her parents to the guillotine for keeping Erin from being self-sufficient.
Both add a splash of humor to the already emotional show.
Jana Lynne Cox plays the mother, Mrs. Allen. Along with the dad (Matthew Windham), she gives the crowd a third struggle to experience: the parents' effort to deal with Erin's problems and show their love for both daughters equally.
The music is well-composed, but the singing isn't the best. The rest of the cast was Holmgren's age or younger. Despite a few slips, which should be expected in a cast of children, they kept the play flowing - never getting stale even on scenes and dialogue repeated throughout.
Among the Children's Theatre's many quality productions, I'd hesitate to put this show at the very top. But it does deserve a lot of attention and is important for all kids to see and tugs at the heart-strings of the adults. It's also short - just under an hour.
Julie Anne Rees died in 1991, shortly before the Jana finished writing the play. The show is a tribute to Julie, and Jana truly feels she was in the theatre for the premiere, "watching the play in spirit."
You can see the play 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 16 and 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 17. Click here for tix.