The Weavers of Enchantment don't use tricks or sleight-of-hand. But there is magic in "The Magic Brush," their musical play for children based on Asian folk tales.
The company is appearing in various Southern California communities (it played the La Mirada Civic Theatre on Sunday), offering the tale of young Mei Ling (Sarah Grossman), an artist whose paintings come to life. Using her art to tell stories, she brings happiness to her fellow peasants, downtrodden by an evil emperor.
Peasant, sheriff, old man, young man, emperor, dancer--the seven actors play several roles each, going from one to another smoothly, with crisp definition. Fast-paced, never manic, the play is a series of stories within a story. Directed with finesse by Pat Harter, it has a natural flow, a rhythm that moves from one story to the next without a jarring note.
A vain and beautiful princess learns humility and unselfishness, a town finds it has judged the guilt of one of its citizens too hastily, a guilty man is taught a lesson of truth--and a tyrannical emperor meets the fate he deserves.
The splendid cast delivers humor and moral with equal elan and individuality. Robin Gordon's princess, brilliantly gowned and coiffed, is indeed lovely. When a curse gives her the snout of a pig, her disbelief is monumental. "Ugly? Moi ?" She falls to the ground, tearfully grunting.
The audience loves it.
Kelley Palmer, a natural clown, plays a posturing, drawling sheriff and a sea-swallowing Chinese Brother. Grossman as Mei Ling shows graceful evidence of a balletic background, while, in a brief but wicked turn as an old woman, Paul Maley (also appearing as the evil emperor) scores high marks.
David Arnott's and Maley's spirited music is provided by pianist Caroline Oblites, and ranges from Asian in tone to a sly rendition of Beethoven's "Fuer Elise," accompanying three fey butterfly hunters (Alan Muraoka, Bob Pederson and Arnott, deftly zany).
The message here is the richness found in one's imagination. Proving its point, the rich imagination of its creators is the magic in "The Magic Brush."
Additional performances will be at Lakewood Senior High at 11 a.m. Saturday (213-498-3703), Culver City High at 2 p.m. Sunday (213-837-4813), Lincoln Junior High in Santa Monica at 2 p.m. Feb. 15, Wadsworth Theater at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. March 2 and Citrus College in San Gabriel at 2 p.m. April 5.