CSC’s “Tom Sawyer” is an Adventure to Lift Your Spirits

Review by Liz Eichler of Tom Sawyer: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Caitlyn McWethy and Cary Davenport in “Tom Sawyer”

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is the history of a playful boy and his friends, certain to lift your spirits on these dark fall days.

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production is visually appealing, and picks out some of the best parts of Mark Twain’s classic. It allows you to feel, to remember what it was like to have one foot in the adult world, but another firmly rooted in freedoms of childhood. Young and old will love it.

Tom Sawyer is a 12-year old boy, around 1845, living in a small town near the Missouri River. Everyone in the town knows each other (for good or bad). It is the story of his friendship with Huck Finn, Joe Harper, the new girl Becky Thatcher, his Aunt Polly, brother Sid, and a few other local characters.

Cary Davenport has the perfect devilish grin, so you can see why Aunt Polly forgives him for so many broken rules. You see his mind flit from one idea to the next, as his energy, enthusiasm and charisma reframe dreadful chores into a desired activity in the iconic fence-painting scene. You may not recognize Miranda McGee as sweet Aunt Polly, attesting to the amazing range of this talented actress. Caitlin McWethy captures the innocence and girlishness of Becky Thatcher, and her scenes with Davenport are some of the show’s most charming. In between the dialogue, McWethy and Davenport give you a dictionary of looks, movements, and smiles.

The entire ensemble captures a sense of play, without (too much) effort. Director Sara Clarke has molded the play, by Laura Eason, into a creation of fun and wonder, exploration and adventure. The simplicity but effectiveness of the set (Shannon Robert) and lighting (Justen N. Locke) is amazing. (CSC is still showing audiences the full capacity of the space, using clever techniques that may recall “Transformers” – a childhood toy from another era.) Costumes by Denise Vulhop Watkins beautifully capture the class differences of the era. My favorite “scenery” is the cave, told in rich soundscape (Doug J. Borntrager).  The ensemble includes Geoffrey Warren Barnes II, Kyle Brumley, Justin McCombs, Christopher Jordan Salazar, and Crystian Wiltshire.

This is a show for the whole family,* from the young’uns to the grannies. Perfect for the holidays, capturing the fond memories of Childhoods Past, and the Childhoods yet to come, it plays through December 9, but get your tickets now (www.cincyshakes.com)—as they will go as quickly as childhood.

*From the CSC website: recommended for children ages 8+ but the whole family can still go– on Sundays Nov. 26 or Dec. 3, younger kids (4+) can have Artist-led child care DURING the performance, free for subscribers. Contact the box office or website for more information.

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