“Androcles and the Lion” captures commedia for kids

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“We will hide behind another face and reappear in the marketplace.”

After helping a damsel escape, Androcles the servant ends up far from home… with a bagful of her master’s gold. Is this her chance to finally be free? Or will the cruel Pantalone find her and beat her? Androcles hides in a cave, but quickly realizes she’s not alone.

This witty retelling of “The Lion and the Mouse” introduces kids to the classic Italian style commedia dell’arte. The usual stock characters appear: a boastful Captain, miserly old Pantalone, two lovers and, of course, the trickster servant—each accentuated by exquisite masks from SB Parks.

Rachael Jacobs evokes surprising pity as Androcles. She walks kids through a servant’s life (beatings, hunger, constant fear) before making fools of her oppressors. The sympathy elevates the comedy, while Jacobs’ high energy and acrobatics keep young eyes engaged.

Sean Verdu was born to play this style. As the villainous Pantalone, every gesture hits three levels, his steps a dance, his screeching crystal clear.

Rachel Daguman makes the most of lovesick ingénue Isabella (rhymes with umbrella), peppering in improvised jokes that shatter the fourth wall.

Fine Arts Center’s production intentionally softens the slapstick. Kicks miss by a mile and the actors slow their tumbling to a safe pace. Parents won’t need to worry about kids trying this stuff at home.

While younger viewers can follow the story, we highly recommend this show for grades 4-6. The script, written in verse, is packed with clever wordplay. Duos trade rhyming adjectives back and forth at dizzying speed. It’s a fun, richly staged and gleefully acted introduction to a style most students have never seen before.

Additional Notes:

We were completely charmed by Lara Hincapie’s sets. Stately and childlike all at once, they match the story’s playful tone.

Fine Arts Center provides special seating for kids up front. If your child wants to sit with you instead, please note that the adult seats offer adult sightlines. Kids sitting just two rows back struggled to see.

“Androcles and the Lion” contains witty wordplay, comic burping and several intimidating roars.

Second Stage at Fine Arts Center
30 W Dale St
Box Office: (719) 634-5581

Playing March 2 – April 1, 2018 (buy tickets)
Admission: $20 adults; $10 kids
Running Time: 1 hour

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