The child psychology experts at Children’s Theatre Company know that kids, and grown-ups who remain playful at heart, take great pleasure in making messes, especially when the spills involve whipped cream, clear tape and bubble-blown milk.
Such gleeful disorder is at the heart of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” a two-person comedy that feels bigger because of its physical footprint in its summer reprise at the Minneapolis playhouse. Adapted by Jody Davidson from the Laura Joffe Numeroff children’s book, “Mouse Cookie” makes a total mess of the stage.
And in doing so, it hits the sweet spot for the toddler set (and primes them for cookies at intermission).
Numeroff’s original, which is part of her own children’s book series that includes “If You Give a Moose a Muffin,” packs a circular story into very few words. The 90-minute Children’s Theatre production, directed for maximum laughs by Peter Brosius, fills out the narrative with lots of illustrative and tangential physical humor.
Decked out in ears, overalls and a long tail, actor Dean Holt plays the hungry, hop-along Mouse that visits an innocent Boy and seeks a treat. The Boy is ordinarily played by Reed Sigmund.
The offer of a cookie leads to a request for a glass of milk which leads to a milk moustache, lots of spills, attempted clean-ups and, eventually, apparent fatigue. One catch: The rodent is not sleepy. He wants to hear a bedtime story. The mouse uses vegetables to enact the jungle-set tale that the boy reads to him.
The pratfall-filled show is full of bits that one would expect from classic comedy duos such as Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello.
Holt is limber and fearless, even if his Mouse gets screaming-scared by dust bunnies. In the show, the jumpy mouse leaps onto a table, a refrigerator and the Boy.
Holt’s energy never flags as he delivers the well-rehearsed lines and pratfalls with gusto.
I saw this show when my children were younger, and it was funny then. It remains so today, even if you see the gags, such as the one involving a mop and a bucket, coming from a mile away.
The Boy was depicted by performing apprentice Adam Qualls on the evening I saw it. The understudy had big shoes to fill. Sigmund is an ingenious comic actor with a rubbery face and a quiver of physical expressions. Qualls acquitted himself well as the straight man to Holt’s mayhem-causing mouse.
“Mouse Cookie” has expressive music by Victor Zupanc. The sounds, including a syncopated “You Are My Sunshine,” are twinned to the movements onstage and amplify the humor. Michael Sommers’ set and Mary Anna Culligan’s costumes also help to make “Mouse Cookie” a treat that leaves a little bit of a sugar high.
Watch out for the comedown.