Back to Stage

Olympia Family Theater's "Phantom Tollbooth": Another wonderland

Milo's adventures in the Lands Beyond

Olympia Family Theater's "Phantom Tollbooth"

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

Given my lifelong adoration of facts and figures, it's a wonder I've never read The Phantom Tollbooth. Written by Norman Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, this 1961 kid-lit classic is oft referred to as an American Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It tells the story of Milo, a boy given to ennui, who finds himself the recipient of an interdimensional portal in the shape of a tollbooth. He's transported to "the Lands Beyond" - specifically, the Kingdom of Wisdom, which is governed by dueling monarchs, King Azaz the Unabridged (lord of all things literary) and the Mathemagician.

Dorothy had her Scarecrow and Tin Man; Milo has Tock and Humbug. Tock (Emmalene Ryle) is a watchdog, obsessed with time. Humbug's a kind of insectile Newt Gingrich, a role Sara Geiger squeezes for all it's worth. Nick Taylor plays Milo as evenly as the role demands. The three companions are set on a quest to rescue Princesses Rhyme and Reason (Kendall Tuckett and Aurora Strauss-Reeves, respectively). Along the way, they meet a diverse cast of hooligans, none more memorable than pedantic Rule Book or loony Dr. Discord, both played with gusto by Kylie Charney-Harrington.

It's an all-kids show, with the pros and cons that generally implies. The staging suffers from a sameness of tone, but it benefits from the irresistibly cute factor of tykes hamming it up for Mom and Dad. I also enjoyed Eli Wasserman's cartoon sound effects and Taylor's finesse with a toy car. It's harder than it looks.

Juster said he was inspired to write The Phantom Tollbooth by his father's love of Marx Brothers movies. The ghost of Groucho's is in full effect, along with Lewis Carroll's reverence for paradox. "Follow that line forever," one character advises, "and when you get there, turn left!"

I quote Willy Wonka: "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."

[Olympia Family Theater, The Phantom Tollbooth, through Feb. 19, 7 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 1 and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday, $9-16, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, 360.753.8586]

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search