The South Coast Repertory Young Conservatory Players kicks off its 10th season with a handsome, ambitious adaptation of Mark Twain's salty "Tom Sawyer."
Graveyards at midnight, murder, buried treasure--Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer" is no namby-pamby kid story and Sara Spencer's stage version is true to the book. We see Huck's dead cat, unrepentant truancies, young love, clay pipes and tobacco, grave robbing, drunken Muff Potter, wicked Injun Joe and the fateful stabbing.
But this is the age of Rambo and Luke Skywalker, and perhaps that explains why the Players, a non-professional ensemble of 10- to 17-year-olds directed by Diane Doyle, go through their paces, surprisingly uninvolved in such spicy goings-on.
It all takes place in Founders Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Dwight Richard Odle's beautifully detailed set of wooden planks and Missouri flora is surrounded by Aunt Polly's white-washed fence. The cast wears Odle's perfect costumes, the girls in pinafores and ribbons, the boys in worn britches, dangling suspenders and clumpy, scuffed shoes. Donna Ruzika's evocative lighting expertly sets the mood.