Charlotte’s Web at The Arden

Charlotte’s Web, The Arden Theater, (previews: Nov 30-Jan 29, 2011. Review of Opening: Dec. 2, 2011, on WRTI, 90.1 Fm

Aubie Merrylees makes some pig. Terrific, radiant, definitely humble, on stage at the Arden Theatre for his debut in Charlotte’s Web. Innocent and round-eyed, Merrylees has a way of looking at Fern who saves the runt from her father’s axe that’s just like the book. Fern Arable is played by the endearing Emilie Krause. John Arable by Charlie Delmarcelle, whose roles include some of the E.B. White  narration, a mean harmonica and sweet guitar.

Mr. and Mrs. Arable (Leah Walton) also play goose and gander in the Zuckerman’s barn which is more than a hoot.

White’s classic – adapted for the stage by Joseph Robinette – is must-see for families –even for singles – this holiday.

As for Charlotte, the talented spider couldn’t be bettered: Sarah Gliko, perfectly costumed by Rosemary McKelvey, plays the empathic arachnid, sliding down a rope in the barn. Everything from her black bob to her manner is Charlotte, through and through.

The Arden production relies far more on thespian imagination than costume for animals and people in the Arable and Zuckerman barns.  Wilbur on his knees or standing is the soul of a pig or boy in need of a friend.

Christopher Colucci’s sound design brings the story together under David Gordon’s mockup of a barn with real hay and dirt. Nine actors switch from animals to humans and it’s a wonder how little we need (in the way of costumes, props) to know when we are hearing sheep, geese, pigs or humans speaking.  Imagination is all.  Excellent Brian Anthony Wilson slides from Homer Zuckerman, who hopes to fatten Wilbur to  a convincing sheep or blue- ribbon pig.

One surprise is Anthony Lawton. Lawton’s played the Arden but never  the Arden’s children’s theater. He’s a natural as Templeton the Rat, as churlish as felon as you’d want, tail swinging from beneath long coat… Whit McLaughlin directs Charlotte’s Web. Do go!

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