Seattle Children's Theatre
Tickets: (206) 441-3322 or website
Fridays @ 7:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday @ 2:00 PM & 5:30 PM
February 22 - April 6, 2008
The Hundred Dresses, a play adapted by Mary Hall Surface based on the book by Eleanor Estes, is set in a 1938 small American town. Due to the Great Depression, many families are forced into a subsistence living style and are fearful that the continuing stream of immigrants is saturating the job market, keeping them in poverty. These may seem like fairly mature themes for a production whose audience consists mainly of children, but rest assured, the morals of standing up for what's right and not being prejudiced are themes that all ages can enjoy, and Seattle Children's Theatre is more than up to the task in presenting this.
The technical aspects of Hundred Dresses are extremely well done. Designer Rick Paulsen used the lighting to effectively convey scene changes and even inner thoughts to the audience in a clear and simple way. Also, the scenery of the set (designed by Carey Wong) is extremely versatile. Even though the actors playing children were adults, the audience is led to believe they are younger because the size proportions of the stage made them seem so much smaller and younger. Finally, it seems as though Wong wanted the scene to have an almost pop-up storybook quality to it, with two dimensional trees and a house that looks as though it came straight out of a fairy tale.
The acting of the show caused the most controversy. Rather than playing to both the adults and the children, the acting styles are aimed more at the under-10 age group with giant, deliberate movements and loud voices. Actors Betsy Schwartz (Maddie), Troy Fischnaller (Jacob/Willie), Tim Gouran (Jack), and all the other adult actors playing children were spot-on in terms of their childish mannerisms, keeping the play somewhat lighthearted overall.
Overall, The Hundred Dresses starts out a bit slow but finishes so strongly that the audience will walk out more than satisfied with the production. Although the adults may not like the acting and the kids won't get the historical pop-culture references (such as Buck Rogers and Greta Garbo), there is something for everyone who comes to enjoy. This is a story that will endear itself to the heart of anyone willing to listen.