"Cache-Cache/Hide and Seek," set during the Nazi occupation of France, tells a story far removed from the usual children's theater fare, but the subject is so delicately geared for a very young audience that it never comes alive.
Barbara Rottman's adaptation of Claire Huchet Bishop's book "Twenty and Ten," performed over the weekend at the Children's Museum, is about three French Jewish children given shelter by a nun and her young students.
The play is intended to be timely, but no sense of immediacy touches the consciousness to make clear that today, as in the past, child survivors of war are fleeing death or imprisonment.
Rather, the drama becomes strictly a tale of adventure, presented by an earnest cast of young performers, the new Junior Bumberchute Company, directed by Candace Barrett Birk.
Two Nazi soldiers, portrayed by adult actors Frank Pittarese and Tom Dugan, are caricatures (one whistles "Lili Marlene" as he patrols the school) and easily foiled.
Sister Gabrielle (Kate James), held in prison to reveal the whereabouts of the refugees, is almost manically cheerful upon her release. She unbelievably suggests that she and her students sleep that night in the cave where the refugees so recently hid for their lives, and that they write a play about the experience.
In its care to lighten the issue for its audience, the play's happily-ever-after ending removes the need for further thought.
The junior cast members do a creditable job, though the tiny area allotted in the Louis B. Mayer Performance Space makes for cramped action and awkward set changes. Martin Paull designed the simple set with its functional wooden blocks and see-through wire cave.
Produced by the museum's Bumberchute Company and the Martyr's Memorial and Museum of the Holocaust, "Cache-Cache," which had its last performance Sunday, was part of a citywide celebration of the "Anne Frank in the World" exhibit (on view Sunday to July 13), dealing in part with the experiences of refugee children. Exhibit information: (213) 653-5979.
KIDBEAT UPDATE: Thom McFadden, Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo, directors of the ambitious American Children's Theatre project, were joined by Santa Monica Mayor Christine Reed and Citywest architect Bill Morrish for a fund-raising party Saturday at the Criterion Theatre, the group's new home in the old Santa Monica Mall.
Design drawings and plans were unveiled for the full-Equity $3-million nonprofit performance art center. The family oriented center plans entertainment and educational events with matinees, backstage visits and evening programs. Information: (213) 394-0822.