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THEATER REVIEW

Adapted 'Pinocchio' with adoption twist

South Coast Repertory production is sappy but fun.

June 16, 2005|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

If you like your "Pinocchio" with a slice of contemporary angst, South Coast Repertory is the place to go.

The wooden boy in this new Theatre for Young Audiences musical version of Collodi's classic tale has a wooden chip on his shoulder: Kindly Geppetto may have carved him out of a log, but it's not as though the toymaker's a real dad, is it?

Somewhere in the Enchanted Forest is Pinocchio's neglectful tree father and a confrontation waiting to happen.

In their skimming adaptation, Susan DiLallo (book and lyrics) and Jeffrey D. Harris (music) earnestly frame the story about the puppet who wanted to be a real boy around an adoption theme.

This Pinocchio (Scott Johnson) learns he's "different" when he is taunted at school by bullies, who say his parents didn't want him and gave him away. Pinocchio's response is to make up stories about who his parents are, prompting a one-time, quickly forgotten nose extension.

Geppetto (Timothy Landfield), meanwhile, who has touchingly told Pinocchio in song to "Lean on Me," seems reluctant to claim full fatherhood. He's a "sort of" dad, he says.

When Pinocchio rebels and runs away to "Playland" (a truncated scene, but a nice clown-face set piece by Donna Marquet), he unloads on hapless Geppetto: "Maybe you should stop nagging me," he says. "I don't have to listen to you. You're too old. I hate you."

As it happens, he ends up in the Enchanted Forest and meets his "father," a tall tree (Tom Shelton, waving branches in another amusing set piece).

Nevermind that Pinocchio was simply a tree branch, blown by a storm into Geppetto's town. Why wasn't the tree "there" for him, Pinocchio wants to know, although it would seem that Father Tree -- being solidly rooted -- might have trouble traveling.

"I gave you life," the tree sings. But Geppetto "gave me love," Pinocchio sings back.

It's all a bit, well, sappy, but director John-David Keller and the capable adult cast keep things as light as possible. And fortunately, as Pinocchio and Geppetto discover what family and adoption are all about, Alex Jaeger's whimsical costumes add color, lighting designer Tammy Owens Slauson contributes atmosphere, and some jaunty tunes and mild humor keep preschoolers giggling.

*

`Pinocchio'

Where: South Coast Repertory, Argyros Stage, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 7 p.m. Friday; 2, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday

Ends: June 19

Price: $12-$23

Info: (714) 708-5555, www.scr.org

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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