How does one translate a children’s book with just a few hundred words into a 50-minute show?
With lots of sound effects and playful physical humor.
Katie Mitchell’s adaptation of “The Cat in the Hat” has been revived by Jason Ballweber as the Children’s Theatre’s summer production. As played with coolness and irrepressibility by Dean Holt, this “Cat” is a fun frolic through whimsy.
The show is pitched to the pre-K set but is enjoyed by youngsters at heart. A quiet girl named Sally (Elise Langer) and an equally reticent Boy (Douglas Neithercott) are at home with only their Fish (Gerald Drake) for company. They peer out the window in boredom. Suddenly, the Cat enters their world, to some cool jazz.
Everything about him, from his ball to his bicycle, seems magical. And his actions are accompanied by a soundtrack of plinks, squeaks, crashes, bumps and mysterious noises that help to take the two main characters on an imaginative trip that also includes the revelation of two blue-haired creatures named Thing 1 (Ana Christine Evans) and Thing 2 (Diogo Lopes).
The children at a Sunday performance could barely contain themselves. They told the characters onstage where things were. They were impatient to see the limber Cat who always held his head high. In other words, they were fully engaged with the show.
The actors incorporated the interactive elements into their performance. Drake’s Fish hissed at the other characters onstage to shush them. The actor then turned directly to the engaged (and slightly rambunctious) audience, quieting them as well.
“Cat” is a slight work, but the actors treat it with great respect. Holt is limber as the Cat, showing his impressive vertical in a leap onto a box. But he spends most of the time preening, as felines are wont to do.
Both Langer and Neithercott are open as Sally and Boy, characters primed to be entranced by the tricks of a visiting stranger.
And the Things are wild bunches of frilly fun in a show that brings Dr. Seuss’ characters to vivid onstage life.