A New Grinch for the Stage

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The Blue Bird
By Stanton Wood and Lori Ann Laster, music by Colm Clark
Urban Stages
259 West 30th Street
212-868-4444
'Tis the season when the virtues of charity, warmth, and kindness are reiterated upon screens large and small—and, of course, onstage. And the time when meanies of all sorts are rehabilitated, the Grinch and Scrooge our foremost examples. In The Blue Bird, a play by Stanton Wood and Lori Ann Laster based on Maurice Maeterlinck's classic, with music by Colm Clark, this meanie is Martha (Ronit Aranoff), a materialistic girl who can't understand why her recently widowed mom (Maureen Silliman) isn't able to buy her all the latest high-tech gadgetry. But when a wonky fairy (also Silliman, in an overly subtle turn) comes to Martha on Christmas Eve and sends the girl on a journey in search of a blue bird (the one of happiness, of course), Martha learns to recant her selfish and egocentric ways. On her quest, Martha travels to places like the Land of Luxury and meets fantastical characters like Night (a wicked queen played by Jenny Gammello) and Time (Drew Battles). Curiously, though, The Blue Bird is strangely lacking in magic. The script condescends to younger theatergoers and, in Heath Cullens's often shrill production, is painfully two-dimensional; Clark's intricate melodies will certainly appeal to adults, but are likely to distance children. Thankfully, almost sculpturally beautiful costumes by Andrey Bartenev and nearly hallucinogenic video projections from Alex Koch elevate the production, mitigating the many longueurs in a piece that runs just 60 minutes.
 
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