This weekend a friend and I got all dolled up to see a production of “The Little Prince” by the Northwestern’s Lookingglass Theater Company in collaboration with The Actors Gymnasium. I read the novella several years ago (and by several I mean at least a decade) and had a vague recollection of the whimsical and philosophical nature of the story. I was intrigued to hear the story had been turned into a play and wondered how one could produce the grandiose imaginings of The Little Prince on a stage. My friend was also excited, because The Little Prince is one of her favorite books and she kept repeating over and over, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
We arrived, took our seats, and waited in anticipation to view the story of the Aviator who crashes his plane into the desert. As the sunsets a little man appears. Over time the Aviator looses interest in fixing his plane as The Little Prince tells his tales of traveling from his star to other planets and finally landing on earth. Each planet he visits has a set of unique character or characters on it that The Little Prince interacts with and learns some valuable lessons. The story is fanciful, yet explores issues of the human condition. It is a lovely piece of work.
The play started out a little stilted, as though the actor playing the Aviator had said his lines one too many times. Then he met the Little Prince and magic started to happen. The stage was simple enough, a sloping dune the Aviator used to draw on and a yellow airplane to the side. But then hands started popping out from the dune and a flower dressed as a human emerged from the dune as the Little Prince told his story and I realized that the set only seemed simple. In fact, the stage construction was just as unique as the play. This was born out by ladders that descended from the ceiling, a hoop that came down from above when the Conceited Man did his aerial act, and when The Snake got lifted into the air to float around the Little Prince’s head. Large balls bounded out from the wings as the ensemble created a slightly different set for each planet that the Little Prince visited. Bubbles floated around the stage at one point, and helium balloons that emerged from The Bankers belly floated along the ceiling long after his scene had come and gone. The Ensemble danced, rode unicycles, spent an entire scene walking around on balls, and my favorite, danced on a scaffolding wall as roses. The music and sound effects are all produced by the ensemble lending even more whimsy to an already fanciful production.
In a word it was lovely. The fantasy of the story was adeptly translated to the stage by this production and crew. The playfulness of the Little Prince was echoed in the faces of the ensemble as they hula hooped their way across the stage. The audience felt the magic, clapping at the end of every story the Little Prince told. Laughter and tears were seen and heard, sighs breathed across the face of the crowd when the Rose sang her ballads. After the first five minutes I settled in to watch, enjoy, and be a part of the fantastical nature of the story as it unfolded. I smiled, laughed, and frowned as the play progressed. I enjoyed every last drop.