Tom Sawyer is one of the most famous and ubiquitous characters in American literature. There is something so universal in Mark Twain's depictions of Tom's various adventures that other writers have incorporated him into their own works, not unlike the appearance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes in an assortment of prequels and sequels written by various admirers.
Twain not only knew how to tell a good tale, but he did it with such a magnanimous sense of humor that his messages are irresistable, making this adaptation the perfect choice for the Denver Center Theatre Company's renewal of its "middle school" series.
Director Jane Page and her talented craftspeople handle the challenges of staging this in-the-round of the Space Theatre as if it were the most natural venue, with the close quarters creating an intimacy unlike anything available under a proscenium.
The adult actors have a ball playing kids, bringing a dimension of caricature (and subtlety) that is generally absent in young actors. With a twinkle in his eye and a dash of sass, Stanton Nash shows us why Twain so loved Tom, just as cute-as-a-button, effervescent Caitlin Wise shows why Tom so loved Becky Thatcher. Blake Lowell's quirky Huck Finn stands ready to carry out any dare with a bravado that presages another Twain masterpiece just down the road from this one.
|Stanton Nash as Tom Sawyer|
and Caitlin Wise as Becky Thatcher
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Page challenges our sense of the characters' archetypal hair coloring, with Becky a redhead and Huck with hair as dark as night, but Tom remains a brunette. Twain the iconoclast (a redhead in his youth) likely would have enjoyed seeing Becky (whose courtship bears a strong resemblance to that of Twain and his wife, Olivia, a brunette) as something other than the flaxen-haired girl in the tale (though the pig-tails are a must!), or even Huck, without his trademark wheat silk locks waving every which way in the wind.
Rachel Fowler flavors Aunt Polly's sternness with a pinch of bemusement and just the right measure of affection for her nephew, Tom. Drew Cortese paints the schoolmaster and the preacher in broad, dryly comical strokes, but his Injun Joe is downright scary!
Perfect. This is a young person's adventure story, you know, and the famous incidents keep popping up one after another: Tom getting the other kids to whitewash the fence for him; falling in love for the first time; witnessing a murder in the cemetary at midnight; digging for buried treasure; running away and crossing the Mississippi on a raft; and getting lost in a cave along the river, which inadvertently leads to the karmic demise of the killer.
|(Back to front) Blake Lowell as Huckleberry Finn,|
Nick Abeel as Joe Harper,
and Stanton Nash as Tom Sawyer
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Vicki Smith's simple, yet effective, scenic design, and the effects which animate the transitory set pieces, inflate the imaginative atmosphere.
The Denver Center Theatre Company's production of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, adapted by Laura Eason, runs through December 18th. 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org.