From Chicago Stage Standard
October 19, 2014
By Sally Jo Osborne
4 Stars Out Of 4
Ok, so I was told to bring tissues with me and sure enough I forgot. Sad, happy, thought provoking for all ages (over the age of 5), Lifeline Theatre presents The Velveteen Rabbit based on the children’s novel written by Margery Williams adapted by Elise Kauzlaric and directed by Amanda Link. Although the story was written in 1922, the lesson it teaches is timeless. Are you for REAL?
Lifeline does a fabulous job with creative costumes by Jessica Kuehnau Wardell and a simple yet effective set by Michele Lilly. The story comes alive with Christopher Acevedo as The Boy, Jamie Cahill as The Velveteen Rabbit, Mykele Callicutt as The Skin Horse, Danielle Davis as The Model Boat and Doctor, and Jenna Schoppe as the Toy Soldier and Nana. They also play dual roles as other rabbits in the woods.
Very creative, innovative and heartwarming this tale has you captivated for 50 minutes without an intermission nor would you want one.
A young boy receives a stuffed velveteen rabbit on Christmas morning and briefly plays and admires it before moving on to the modern toys that are more fun to play with because they wind up and do things that a stuffed animal just doesn’t do. His room is filled with toys that have survived the years and one of those toys is the Skin Horse who was passed down from his uncle. The Skin Horse is wise and always tells the truth and one day he tells the rabbit about how toys become Real because they are loved so much from children. Rabbit only hoped that one day she would be REAL and get to spend the time and have fun with the little boy. “REAL isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become REAL.”
One evening the young boy could not find his stuffed animal friend that he always sleeps with and his mother gave him Rabbit to sleep with instead. Rabbit was thrilled and not only did they spend that night together, but many, many more days and nights playing and having fun. Rabbit becomes the boy’s favorite toy and he even referred to Rabbit as REAL. The wise Skin Horse said, “Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
As time passes, rabbit becomes shabby and older but very is a very happy heir. While in the woods one day he meets some real rabbits who were hopping and playing and they asked Rabbit to join them. Rabbit did not want to for she was content just sitting down. The other rabbits accused her of not being REAL. Rabbit knew she was REAL but then started to question herself if she really was. Rabbit realized that the young boy was not feeling well and went home leaving the rabbit in the woods by herself. His mother, Nana, trekked out to the woods to find Rabbit and brought her back safe and sound.
The young boy was in bed when they got home and had become very, very sick. Rabbit stayed by his side the whole time until his fever broke and until he was fully recovered. Doctor’s orders were to send the young boy to the seaside for fresh air and Rabbit was so excited to be able to go with him. The doctor also ordered that everything in the room should be thrown away and burned in order to disinfect the area. Nana (mother) took everything in the room outside, including Rabbit, to be destroyed. (Ummmm… tissue time).
The very sad Rabbit reflected on the time spent with his best friend and cried a REAL tear which dropped to the ground. Suddenly she transforms into a REAL rabbit and is able to hop and run and play with all the other rabbits in the forest. Rabbit knew for sure that she was REAL! The next season the young boy returned to the forest and notices Rabbit and sees a very familiar looking old friend who resembles his velveteen rabbit. Rabbit was REALLY happy and so was the boy.
As I reflected upon this story for the past 24 hours I came to a REALIZATION. It does take a long time to become REAL and the friends who are REAL have weathered many storms with you and you with them. The finer things in life that are REAL may cost more and may be worth it and maybe not, but being REAL is about being your true self and for REAL that is what it is all about.
From the Reader
October 23, 2014
By Suzanne Scanlon
Lifeline Theatre honors Margery Williams’s beloved story with a dramatization that features a wise Skin Horse (Mykele Callicutt) and a young Velveteen Rabbit (Jamie Cahill) who wants desperately to be real, even as she struggles to understand what that means. This children’s book endures not only because of its timeless simplicity (anticipating Toy Story), but also because of the way it considers a universal drama of authenticity (“Once you are real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand,” the Skin Horse wisely explains). Elise Kauzlaric’s adaptation preserves the best of Williams’s text, and Jessica Kuehnau Wardell’s inspired costumes add considerable charm.
From New City
October 20, 2014
By Nora Durkin
“When you’re real, you don’t mind being hurt.” This central theme permeates an affable and vibrant staging of Margery Williams’ timeless book “The Velveteen Rabbit,” which opens KidSeries’ twenty-eighth season at Rogers Park’s Lifeline Theatre.
The classic tale of toys’ secret lives (some seventy-odd years before Buzz Lightyear) is adapted for the stage by ensemble member Elise Kauzlaric and brought to bright life by Jamie Cahill as the floppy and progressively more existent Rabbit, her peaches and cream face an ideal projection of naïve emergence.
Christopher Acevedo, as the rabbit’s young keeper and caretaker, is a sweetly blank canvas for the young audience’s fantasies. When the boy’s unconditional love for the rabbit gives way to the Scarlet Fever that will condemn her to the woodpile, Acevedo’s performance is never inappropriately worrisome, although the thematic content—and need for subtle understatement—is better suited for an audience closer to five rather than younger.
Cahill’s breezy performance hits its stride in the fantasy segments, only alluded to in the original text. Mykele Callicutt, as the rabbit’s toy-world guide Skin Horse, is a standout, a toy-box oracle whose hooved-crutch costume is all whimsically melancholic, a sweet allusion to his advanced position. Skin Horse’s navigation of the Rabbit through the process of becoming real provides the thematic meat of the story, although even its clearest passages are sure to fly over the heads of the younger audience members.
Once prized possessions, the Toy Soldier and Model Boat are played with ample physical possession and witty insecurity by Jenna Schoppe and Danielle Davis, respectively. The invented toy battle scene was a particular audience favorite on opening day, as director Amanda Link had the entire cast lurching and leaping across the stage.
The “happily ever after” evasion Williams provides for the condemned rabbit is truncated in Kauzlaric’s brisk epilogue, as Cahill sheds her worn spotted brown fur to reveal an eternally plush coat before prancing off with her cast-mates into the great forest of forever. Whatever the hedge, it provides good cheer following a mildly worrying sequence. As the lights fade, the rabbits’ bounce into the woods is a pleasingly upbeat and ethereal end to this brisk fifty-minute comedy.