“The Stinky Cheese Man” at Lifeline Theatre in association with Griffin Theatre Company
October 5, 2006
By Alena Murguia
Lifeline Theatre, well known for adapting classic children’s books for the stage, has now tackled a not-so-classic book with hilarious results. Using great actors, an inventive set and plenty of audience interaction, Lifeline once again has kids and their parents laughing, clapping and cheering for the unlikeliest of heroes.
The plots centers around Jack (of Beanstalk fame) who tries to use stories, friends and one annoying Little Red Hen to avoid being eaten by the Giant (played entirely on stilts by the talented Kevin Kingston). The original book was written by Jon Scieszka and all of his stories are subversive twists on classic fairytales like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin.
Over the course of 45 minutes, actors play multiple parts bringing these stories to life. Terrific actors and great costuming make each character so unique that it took my 5-year-old a while to catch on that it was the same person. Nicholas Ward is so wonderful as the Stinky Cheese Man that his terrific turns as a conniving frog and wily wolf come as a great surprise.
Jack gets the kids in the audience involved physically and verbally. We loved watching him climb through rows of people attempting to hide, especially when “helpful” audience members blew his cover with the giant. My niece was definitely impressed at the actors’ abilities to respond to the audience even though she doesn’t know the term “improvisation.” One brave little girl even joined the cast for a turn as Goldilocks. You have to give the actors big credit for coaxing her to do their bidding.
In case the title doesn’t give it away, parents should be aware that the word “stupid” is thrown around constantly through the show. My son was truly shocked to hear characters calling each other “a bad word.” I was also a little taken aback by the amount of stage violence, especially between Jack and the Giant. Lifeline recommends the show for kids 5 and up, definitely guidelines to follow.
Look to Lifeline and Griffin Theatre’s “The Stinky Cheese Man ” to give your funny bone a hearty nudge.
October 2, 2006
By Joe Stead
If the child you love or the child inside you craves something insatiably silly, look to Lifeline and Griffin Theatre’s wacky KidSeries co-production of “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales” to give your funny bone a hearty nudge. Co-Authors Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith took many of our famed fairy tale characters (Jack in the Beanstalk, the Little Red Hen, Cinderella and the Princess and the Pea, among others) and turned them inside out in an outrageously irreverent 1989 revision. It may not give the little tykes much to think about, but William Massolia’s bright and fast-paced stage adaptation should give them permission to chuckle out loud.
The sky is falling, the beanstalk has sprouted and the Little Red Hen can’t find anyone to help make the bread. But at the moment, Jack has his own problems. If you all remember, and I know you do, Jack exchanged his favorite cow for a handful of magic beans, which he was promised would lead him to riches. “You believed him, did you?” the Hen inquires, to which Jack replies, “Of course, it’s a fairy tale.” And the beans did grow into a towering beanstalk that led to a golden harp, a magic goose, and a Giant with a pretty ravenous appetite for Englishmen. All the while, the annoying and smelly Stinky Cheese Man teases him (and us) with Silly Cheese Spray and taunts him to play tag.
It’s a life and death situation for poor Jack, who must conjure some tall tales to distract the Giant from turning him into a giant sandwich. We rehear those oft told tales of the Frog and the Princess, CindeRumpelstiltskin, a biker Princess and the Pea, a track star named Little Red Running Shorts and a gentlemanly Wolf who is just misunderstood, and Goldilocks and the Three Elephants. Missed one or two of those? No fear, Lifeline’s production encourages the audience to use its imagination and even join in the action at one or two points. Director Richard Barletta and his cast play it strictly for laughs, with the typically crafty Lifeline creativity and ingenuity coming into play. Big cheers to Lifeline Theatre for the continued devotion to exposing youngsters to the wonders of live theatre.
From Northeastern IL University Independent Paper
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
October 6, 2006
By Lenny Ocasio
Everyone’s read a fairy tale in some form or another. You know the ones that start with once upon a time and end with happily ever after. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales at the Lifeline Theatre has all the highly familiar tales but with a twist to them. It’s based on a book of the same name but believe me when I say it’s not necessary.
We start with Jack (the one with the beanstalk not the candlestick jumper), played by Steve Wilson, as he tries to escape being the giant’s lunch. Jack from time to time is interrupted by the bothersome Little Red Hen, played by Cathleen Bentley, and the exasperating Stinky Cheese Man, played by Nicholas Ward. Jack, in a fit of desperation, persuades the giant to listen to a few of Jack’s collection of fairly stupid tales before eating him. The giant, played by Kevin Kingston, decides that it couldn’t hurt to delay his meal for a few minutes and so Jack begins.
He starts with the Princess and the Frog which has a princess with her own theme song, played by Vergia Siovan. The giant of course is disappointed with the story but let’s Jack tell a few more. If you’re familiar with Arabian Nights and Scherazade then you can tell how this is going. Jack goes through of a number of tales each with its own weird twist and some odd characters popping in from time to time.
Cinderella, Snow White, the Three Little Pigs, the Tortoise and the Hare, and Goldilocks are mentioned as is Aladdin. My favorite stories were the Princess and the Pea with the rock n’ roll princess and the slightly whiny prince and there was also Little Red Running Shorts, played by Marsha Harmon, with the misunderstood Wolf who strangely enough had a British accent.
The entire play was wonderful. The costumes were simple but they allowed your imagination to fill in the blanks. It made the audience an active and involved part of the play. The actors looked like they were having a lot of fun putting on this production. The play had lessons to learn like the very important: Don’t talk to strangers, especially if they offer to sell you some magic beans.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales is playing at the Lifeline Theatre located at 6912 N. Glenwood Ave. There is parking available and it’s near the Red Line. Go see it with friends, family, or by yourself, it’s only 45 minutes long.