From Time Out Chicago Kids
October 19, 2011
By Elisa Drake
Lifeline Theatre’s petite playhouse in Rogers Park seems to expand during its hour-long KidSeries presentation of James Thurber’s 1950 novel, The 13 Clocks. Imaginative use of puppetry and a tight, tidy set lend a hand in bringing Thurber’s colorful and droll words to life, but the biggest applause goes to the actors. Several take on multiple roles, and all infuse their characters with just the right amount of twinkle in their eyes.
Adapted for the stage by Lifeline’s Jeff Award-winning Robert Kauzlaric, the story covers a timeless fairy-tale theme—daring prince rescues lovely princess from gloomy fate—with one exception: The side of evil is represented not by a cruel and jealous female but by the cruel and “aggressive” Duke of Coffin Castle, one seriously devious dude who mistreats small animals and brags about having “murdered time.”
The only things that warm the Duke’s perpetually icy hands are those of princess Saralinda. He claims that Saralinda is his niece but later reveals that he kidnapped her when she was a baby. As the Duke was making off with the infant, Saralinda’s nurse curses the Duke, which, among other things, permits him to marry her only after she turns 21. Until then, he must allow various princes to attempt to win Saralinda’s hand in marriage—so he naturally gives them impossible tasks to prove their worthiness. They inevitably fail, and the duke gleefully slits them “from their guggles to their zatches” and feeds them to the geese. But then along comes Prince Zorn, disguised as a wandering minstrel. You can guess the rest (mostly).
Although this tale is far from mere child’s play, the existence of the beautiful princess keeps young audiences enthralled. Meanwhile, the fast-paced dialogue and action keeps the often-twisty plotline moving. Your kids may not catch all the characters’ interrelations, but that’s not essential to this fairytale, where good naturally triumphs over evil—and we get a few lessons along the way about believing in yourself.
From the Chicago Theater Beat
Thurber tale delights the child in everyone
October 24, 2011
By K.D. Hopkins
Alas, I did not have one of my precious nieces or nephews for the Lifeline production of The 13 Clocks. As a result, I had to reach way back to the little girl who loved theater. Luckily it’s an easy job when viewing a Lifeline children’s production. Lifeline is the platinum standard for children’s theater in Chicago. And The 13 Clocks cements that status for me.
This production is from a James Thurber fairy tale. I loved his stories as a child and have seen a quite a few of his works on stage—Thurber’s eye for human peccadilloes and silliness is legendary. This is the story of a kingdom frozen in time, a princess held captive by a maniacal duke, people eating blobs, a wandering minstrel and a delightfully forgetful wizard called Golux.
The staging of The 13 Clocks is enhanced through the use of puppets mirroring the actions of the live actors. It is a great way to introduce an enchanted kingdom and quite funny.
Joey deBettencourt is delightful as Zorn the wandering minstrel/secret prince. He comes upon the dazzling Princess Saralinda (Mildred Marie Lanford) trapped in a tower. Lanford plays the Saralinda with a blend of moxie and snap timing. Meanwhile Zorn is warned by Hark (played with hilarious verve by Mike Ooi) to beware of the Duke and of the difficulties in store for anyone who dares try to free the princess.
I love the character of the maniacal Duke, played by Jonathan Helvey! Helvey gives the Duke a perfect blend of cartoon crazy and pathos. With an eye patch over one eye and a monocle over the other, Helvey’s voice and inflection are reminiscent of classic cartoon characters from the golden age of animation when Mel Blanc and Edward Everett Horton ruled the world. Equally adorable is the character of the wizard Golux. David Guiden blends frenetic comic timing and an endearing sweetness into the wizard. His method of wizardly incantation is side splitting funny.
One of the things that I love best about Lifeline is their economy of stage settings. What seems to be a relatively sparse stage is turned into a multi-use panorama; characters whizzing in and out at wizard speed.
This Thurber adaptation is by Lifeline ensemble member Robert Kauzlaric, who does a wonderful job of staying true to Thurber’s style while bringing in a modern twist. Amanda Delheimer is the Director of this wonderful tale. Her pacing is perfect in keeping the characters coherent while deftly adding the perfect touch of farce and double-takes. Also worth a special mention are puppet designers Chelsea Warren and Melanie Berner. The puppets are whimsical and are a perfect addition to the production.
This is a great show for children of all ages. It is funny on child and adult levels and so worth your time. As I said before: Lifeline is the platinum standard for children’s theater. Basketball season is on hold, the Bears could give you apoplexy so get out and explore beautiful Rogers Park USA and make the Lifeline Theater a part of your exploring!
From the Chicago Sun-Times
Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries goes back in rhyme with ‘The 13 Clocks’
October 13, 2011
By Jennifer Burklow
Lifeline Theatre opens its 2011-2012 KidSeries season by flexing its artistic muscles with its adaptation of James Thurber’s “The 13 Clocks.” The 1950 children’s novella by the famed New Yorker cartoonist has been called the first modern take on the traditional fairy tale, a precursor to “Shrek” and its counterparts. It is one of several books Thurber wrote for children. This world-premiere production, adapted by Lifeline ensemble member Robert Kauzlaric, runs Oct. 15 through Dec. 4.
Director Amanda Delheimer calls “13 Clocks” Seussian for its whimsical rhyming and language, and Tim Burtonian for the darkness embodied in the character of the evil Duke.
“Rob has done an incredible job with the adaptation,” Delheimer said. “The book has a lot of rhyming—even the narration rhymes and there are all these internal lines [rhymes] between the dialogue of the book and the dialogue of the narration… The whole thing is just this party of language fun. And he’s really done an incredible job of representing that onstage.”
As for the story itself, she’s charmed by it.
“I love that it’s so whimsical and I also love that it’s really dark and I love the fact that with this play, you can’t have one without the other,” Delheimer said. “I also love the magic; I just think magic is really fun.”
In “The 13 Clocks,” a wicked Duke who believes he has killed time (all 13 clocks in the castle are permanently frozen at 10 minutes to 5) keeps his beautiful niece, the Princess Saralinda, locked in the tower. Disguised as a minstrel, Prince Zorn comes to town, sees the princess, falls in love and vows to save her. What transpires is a battle of wits, words and courage as Zorn sets out to complete an impossible task in order to rescue Saralinda.
Like Adventure Stage Chicago, where Delheimer has directed several plays (“Sinbad: The Untold Tale,” “The Ghosts of Treasure Island”), Lifeline is known for its adaptations of children’s books. Lifeline usually skews toward the preschool- to primary-grade age group with musical send-ups of books such as “Click Clack Moo,” “Duck for President” and “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.” ASC targets upper elementary and middle school audiences. Lifeline aims for a slightly older audience with this hourlong play that relies more on dialogue and plot than music to move the production along.
“I’m really pleased and impressed that [Lifeline] decided to go with this novel… that’s a little bit outside of their go-to spot,” Delheimer said.
Delheimer added that Lifeline is mindful that younger kids will attend the show; to keep them engaged, she’s employing puppets and other props to help portray the ideas of magic, travel and scale. And with Zorn disguised as a minstrel, music does play a part in the show—just in a different way.
For Delheimer, meeting the challenges of “13 Clocks” and entertaining young audiences all comes back to flexing those artistic muscles.
“I like that you get to flex your imagination in a way that you don’t get to for adults,” Delheimer said. “So much of theater for grown-ups is really wonderful, but it’s not as kind of full of all of these wild twists and imagination the way that theater for young audiences is… I feel like theater for young audiences is very much about teaching the skill of imagination and creating a space where it’s a necessary thing to employ, because so much of being creative and being good thinkers is being able to use that muscle, so that’s why I like it.”
From Chicago Stage Style
October 17, 2011
By Sally Jo Osborne
Once upon a time there was a really evil and wicked Duke (Jonathon Helvey) living in a cold, gloomy and creepy castle with his beautiful warm-hearted “niece” (not really) Saralinda, who is almost 21 (Mildred Marie Langford) along with thirteen broken clocks. All of the clocks stopped at “ten minutes to five” and the Duke is convinced that he killed Time (or maybe it was a cold snowy night when someone left the door open). This wouldn’t be the first time this Duke killed something. He is pretty heartless and has a fiery sword ready to swing at anyone that may cross his path. In strolls a mysterious minstrel name Xingu (Joey deBettencourt) aka Zorn of Zorna. He is in search for his princess he has yet to meet and devises a plan to get access to the castle. He sings a silly song that polks fun at the Duke.
This behavior enrages the Duke, and so does the fact that his name begins with an X. He doesn’t like anyone whose name begins with an X and he doesn’t like this Xingu. Golux (David Guiden) arrives on the scene to help the minstrel gain access to the castle with a plan to help both the minstrel and the princess. Golux admits that he never remembers what he knows or knows what he remembers, but for the most part is a good guy. He appears and then suddenly disappears which makes Xingu a little skeptical. Since the Duke must, as per a witches spell, allow the Saralinda to entertain suitors he sends Hark, one of his spies (Mike Ooi) to arrest Xingu and then assigns him what he sees as an impossible task.
It is then discovered that Xingu is really a famously courageous prince in disguise and so he is ordered to produce one thousand jewels and to restart the thirteen clocks. If he doesn’t he will be destroyed by Todal, a mysterious creature that “looks like a blob of glup…an agent of the devil, sent to punish evildoers for having done less evil than they should.” You will embark on a journey of how a prince finds his princess with all of the twists and turns along the way and all of this is accomplished in just one hour without intermission!
There is a lot of adventure to be had in the cozy 99 seat Lifeline Theatre in Rogers Park. James Thurber wrote this fantasy tale in 1950. He is known for his complex word play and hidden rhymes. The story moves quickly and there are whimsical characters, magical spells, puppetry and monsters. The Duke is kind of scary for little ones (my daughter wanted to sit on my lap). The Princess is more beautiful than I am (so I am told by my daughter) and that Golux is funny and has a great hat (says my daughter Ella).
I wish I had a Golux (kind of go to guy) who would show up and tell me what to do whenever I am at a loss of how to continue when in crisis. Until then, I will listen to what I believe in even though I believe what I think might not listen. Huh? What I do know is that Ella and I are going to re-read this classic tale for years to come and highly recommend that kids and their parents should see this show.