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Theatre Review: Ray Bradbury's Green Town
Green Town consists of three vignettes set circa 1929 that focus on fantasy and the whimsical. In the first, 14-year-old Ralph Spaulding (Anders Asbjornsen) can feel something exciting coming on the noon train. He races home to his grandmother’s boarding house to intercept a new guest: a Mr. "Charles Dickens." (Michael Prichard is captivating in the role.) Dickens takes Ralph on as his new writing assistant as they set out to rewrite A Tale of Two Cities – leaving Ralph’s boss and former mentor (Philip Sokoloff, who plays petty well) out in the cold.
The second story focuses on the “time travel” of two teenage boys Douglas (Gabe Kahn) and Tom (Cole Rainey), with the help of Colonel Freeleigh’s time machine. As the decrepit officer, David Fox-Brenton provides comic relief and gravity to the role. He channels Bradbury as he decries the Civil War: "Nothing good but the end of it." And those words still resonate today.
One distracting issue with this vignette, however, was that Rainey broke that “fourth wall” between the actor and the audience by giving his friend(s) in the front row a couple of subtle “hey whazzup” looks and nods. (It’s a small theater, so we’re pretty sure we weren’t the only ones to notice.)
The third story focuses on Ralph's little brother Charlie (Matthew Bond) and father played by Paul Bond (yes, they're real-life father and son) who shake up the summer doldrums by making a fake mummy. Things get interesting when someone finds the mummy and the town goes crazy (kind of like Tut fever that took over LACMA in 2005.)
While some of the pacing of the show is a bit uneven, it's Bradbury's language that helps bring things into focus. If you're looking for cutting-edge theater or serious drama, then this production might not be the right one for you. But if you want to walk down memory lane and discover a time when kids had only their imaginations to entertain themselves, then Green Town might be worth your time visiting.
Green Town Fremont Centre Theatre
1000 Fremont Ave, South Pasadena, CA 91030
Runs until July 29 on Fridays and Sundays at 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm.
Photo by Ed Krieger