REVIEW: “Old Turtle and the Broken Truth” from Rebel Playhouse

by Roseann Cane

The Brooklyn-based educational theater company, Rebel Playhouse, visited Troy’s Arts Center of the Capital Region recently to present their musical allegory, Old Turtle and the Broken Truth. I attended their first show, at 7:30 on a Friday evening, and exited the theater feeling seriously frustrated.

I was frustrated because I had thoroughly enjoyed this delightful show, and its sparse audience of adults left me yearning to relive the experience with a theater filled with families and children. An evening performance doesn’t draw a family crowd, and I can only hope that their one matinee in this region, on Sunday, September 17, drew a house packed with people of all ages.

Based on a book by award-winning children’s author Douglas Wood,Old Turtle and the Broken Truth tells the story of Little One (Sarah Vishnev), a brave and independent young girl who communes with the animals Crow (Johnny Segalla), Fox (Claire Anderson), Bear (André Sguerra), Racoon (Reanna Roane), and Butterfly (director/choreographer Sarah Sutliff). One day, a Truth, in the form of a large chunk of crystalline rock, falls from the sky, breaking when it lands. The animals pick up and examine the Truth, and because they see it is broken, they discard it.

Little One’s Father (Charles Curtis), sees the broken Truth, and he and the villagers (Clara Kundin, Arif Silverman, Madeline Lovegrove, Greer Samuels, and Bridgid Abrams), seeing the words “You Are Loved” written on it, venerate it. This worship of the broken Truth creates jealousy and fear. Little One embarks on a long, difficult journey with the animals, who know they must find the wise Old Turtle (composer/musical director/pianist Dax Dupuy) to learn the missing half of the broken Truth, understand its meaning, and restore harmony to the village.

This enchanting lesson in acceptance and inclusion is presented by a winning group of gifted artists. From the moment the audience enters the theater, the animals (in beautifully rendered, vibrantly colorful costumes designed by Claire Anderson, who also plays Fox and a Hunter) are at play, drawing the audience into their world. The seamless collaboration of the Rebel Playhouse members, many of whom do double or triple duty as cast and crew members, is delightfully consistent with the message of Old Turtle...

Old Turtle and the Broken Truth is, of course, every bit as appropriate (and entertaining) for adults as it is for children, and my complaint about the absence of young ones in the audience is, in part, a selfish one. I know the lessons imparted by this lovely production would have had even more resonance had I had the opportunity to watch and hear the reactions of kids, and I would have loved to see the company engaging directly with little ones, as they did with the adults who attended when I did. Nevertheless, I found this production thoroughly captivating, and I hope many more audiences will have the opportunity to see it.

The Rebel Playhouse production of Old Turtle and the Broken Truth adapted by Catherine Bush from the book by the same name by Douglas Wood, directed by Sarah Sutliff, was performed at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, 265 River Street in Troy, NY, September 15-17, 2017. Composer and music director Dax Dupuy; costume designer Claire Anderson. CAST: Bridgid Abrams, Claire Anderson, Charles Curtis, Dax Dupuy, Clara Kundin, Madeline Lovegrove, Reanna Roane, Greer Samuels, Johnny Segalla, André Sguerra, Arif Silverman, Sarah Sutliff, and Sarah Vishnev.

Rebel Playhouse is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, educational theater company based out of Brooklyn, New York. Founded in the fall of 2016 by Executive Director Clara Kundin, Artistic Director Sarah Sutliff, and Educational Director Greer Samuels, the Rebel Playhouse is a children’s theater company committed to empowering, educating, and entertaining NYC audiences. The Rebel Playhouse produces works for children and families based on stories that break traditions and challenge normative thinking, and offers classes designed to foster creative development. In May 2017, Rebel Playhouse presented their inaugural production Old Turtle and the Broken Truth in NYC to critical acclaim, and in September 2017 they presented the world premiere of Edna The Stomper, a new musical for children, at the Chicago Fringe Festival.

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