Tuesday, March 17, 2015

reviews - GIRLS WHO WEAR GLASSES - Childsplay

Jamie Sandomire, Kaleena Newman and Osiris Cuen; (back) Kate Haas
Photo: Tim Trumbule
for more information on this production, that runs through March 29th, click here

"It’s the first day at middle school for Mira (Kaleena Newman) and her two besties since kindergarten, Tiffany (Jamie Sandomire) and Lindsay (Osiris Cuen), and if that wasn’t pressure enough Mira soon discovers – horror upon horrors – she needs glasses, and that changes everything.  Girls Who Wear Glasses is a new production from playwright Anne Negri.  I urge you to take the family, and not just for the production’s entertainment value, which on its own terms is high, but for so much more. There’s a good chance that after seeing the play, like Mira, young audiences might view the world around them – their school, their friends, and who knows, even their family – through different eyes, and that’s exactly what Girls Who Wear Glasses is all about. With her new frames, her new vision and her new look, Mira is all set.  Then she goes back to school.  “Trust me,” states her immediately disapproving friend, Tiffany.  “No one likes girls in glasses.”  And that sets off a whole series of unexpected conflicts for Mira.  For the first time, the young girl encounters the issue of popularity and what it’s like when so-called friends turn against you. With the exception of Kaleena, perfectly believable as the central character of Mira, the remaining three players all do double duty.  In fact, so surprising is the effectiveness of these actors playing dual roles throughout that by the time the cast assemble at the end for their bow you half expect to see some extra bodies.  Kate Haas plays both Mira’s mom as well as the teacher, while Jamie and Osiris change – often in an instant – from Mira’s frame-free kindergarten friends to Claire and Iris, Mira’s two new school-project buddies, both of whom wear glasses.  Director Debra K. Stevens directs her actors in a way that has them not only change their look, but also their overall stance and voice delivery, successfully creating the illusion that there are suddenly extra characters on the stage who appeared from nowhere vying for Mira’s attention.   By switching from one character to another in the blink of an eye, young audiences are afforded the opportunity of making instant comparisons between attitudes in a considerably more effective manner than simply being told.  Girls Who Wear Glasses moves fast with an unbeatable, playful energy.  Anne Negri’s script may have valuable lessons to teach but it’s presented in a way so full of good, creative humor and funny dialog, there’s not a moment that drags." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"The struggles of adolescence and navigating through Middle School are at the center of Anne Negri’s Girls Who Wear Glasses. When 11 year old Mira finds out on her first day of school that she needs to get glasses it makes matters even worse as she quickly learns that some of the girls who she thought were her friends don’t approve of girls who wear glasses. Girls Who Wear Glasses focuses on loyalty, honesty and the struggle involved in choosing the right friends while being happy about who you are.  Childsplay is presenting the world premiere of Negri’s tightly written play in a smartly directed production with a very talented cast.  Mira, Tiffany and Lindsay have been best friends for seven years. However, Tiffany doesn’t approve of Mira’s new glasses, telling her that people don’t like girls who wear glasses. Tiffany, who is focused on being popular, suggests that Mira hide her new glasses away and only wear them when absolutely necessary. When Mira’s teacher Ms. Scope divides the class into groups to write their “Middle School Philosophy,” Mira is put in a group with Claire and Iris, two fellow eyeglass wearers.  She discovers that she is now stuck between two sets of friends who both want her to be more like them. Negri’s play portrays Mira and her friends in perfect 11 year old fashion, with both appropriate dialogue and situations that any typical pre-teen experiences. Director Debra K. Stevens has assembled a gifted cast of four young women, made up of several Childsplay regulars, who create three dimensional characters with nuance. Stevens’ direction provides an effective balance between the serious messages of the piece and the many humorous moments. She also manages a swift production, which isn’t that easy to do when three of your actors portray more than one part. Jamie Sandomire and Osiris Cuen get to have the most fun in the show, portraying both sets of Mira’s friends. But it is much more than just the simple addition of a pair of glasses that allow them both to move swiftly between the characters, as they also change their voice and physical mannerisms to morph from the popular girls to the less popular ones with ease. In one scene toward the end of the play Sandomire and Cuen change so quickly between the parts that you feel all four girls are on stage at the same time when it is just the two of them. Sandomire expertly displays the behavior of the bossy girl who pushes people around while Cuen is a hoot as the funny friend.  All four ladies are exceptional in portraying their parts while also allowing children to grasp the message behind the play.  Girls Who Wear Glasses teaches the important life lesson to be proud of who you are and realizing everyone has their differences that make them unique. This is yet another exceptional Childsplay production with an excellent cast, expert direction, professional creative elements and a clear message for children of all ages." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"Childsplay develops charming plays that have a great teaching message and re-enforce serious life lessons for young kids. Local playwright Anne Negri crafts a captivating tale about accepting differences between people because that is what makes life fascinating. We meet Mira as she heads for her first day of middle school with friends who don’t all initially bless their differences as they struggle to be clones of each other to be accepted.  Mira’s need for glasses force the friends to come to terms with the need to accept differences to stress the play’s valuable lesson.  Director Debra K. Stevens staging mediocrity doesn’t help the show.  Too often, Stevens lines up the three girls in a row where they stand almost immobile for long periods of time.  Not only is this uncharacteristic of vibrant young girls but it makes for too many boringly bland stretches in the play. Kaleena Newman sparkles as Mira as she insists that her friends find fault with her wearing glasses and they babble ridiculous reasons as Mira stresses that differences keep things interesting.  Kate Haas plays the two adult roles, Mira’s mom and the teacher, and she handles both roles with loving but firm sincerity.  Jamie Sandomire and Osiris Cuen play the friends with staunch independence initially until they realize that differences don’t distract. Girls Who Wear Glasses is a thoughtful play, well performed by the acting ensemble but that cries out for more creative directorial spark to intensify the play and give it more impact for audiences." -Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

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