A Brown Bear, A Moon, and A Caterpillar: Treasured Stories By Eric Carle | Theater review
Source material never guarantees success. But in the case of the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s A Brown Bear, A Moon and A Caterpillar: Treasured Stories by Eric Carle, this ideal pairing of performing-arts company with beloved children’s author equals an onstage triumph at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater (hosted by Chicago Children's Theatre).
Mermaid’s earlier adaptation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been working in venues on four continents for more than 15 years, including a nearly sold-out run at the Field Museum in 2010. Today, that hungry caterpillar's moves are as fluid as ever, especially when he pulls off some break dancing for those of us old enough to remember the worm. Colored with bright florescent paints and lit by black lights, he’s a natural at munching through apples, pears, strawberries and a host of junk food. As he transforms into a Technicolor butterfly, little ones in the audience can’t help but shout out encouragement, thanks to the age-appropriate “no shushing” policy (the show is targeted for 2–7-year-olds).
The sweet-as-can-be doses of narrated fantasy—made more so, thanks to a whimsical score—continue with adaptations of two more widely read Carle works. The puppet-driven “animation” of the little ursine protagonist (from Brown Bear, Brown Bear) and of Monica and her Papa (from Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me) teases out more laughs from the audience as the characters lumber or mosey across stage. It's a testament to the production that even kids unfamiliar with Carle's cannon remain rapt, thanks in large part to the dramatic lighting and those glowing sets.
A Q&A with the puppeteers (just two performers pull off the whole show, with help from a stagehand) doesn’t mean the play loses any of its luster. In fact, kids can’t wait to hear how their favorite character is made to saunter, hop or climb. And with a run time of just under an hour, even the most fidgety among us can sit tight long enough to see Monica’s moon grow and grow.
Chicago Children’s Theatre presents Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s A Brown Bear, A Moon and A Caterpillar: Treasured Stories by Eric Carle through May 27 at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater (2433 N Lincoln Ave, 773-871-3000) Tue–Thu 10:15am; Fri 10am and noon; Sat 10am, noon and 3pm; Sun 11am and 3pm. Tickets are $15–$41 with group and discounted rates available.