By Sarah Valek
What do you do when your baby won’t stop crying? And, is a baby crying necessarily a problem? That’s the situation in The Floating Dolls. Based on a Polish folktale, The Floating Dolls is the second offering from Talespinner Children’s Theatre’s 2014 season, and like TCT’s previous plays, this one fails to disappoint.
Back to the baby. Poor baby Anatol won’t stop crying — and it’s driving everyone crazy. A mysterious woman comes along with the supposed solution to his parents’ — and the entire town’s — problem. It’s a rather elaborate solution — sew rag dolls, who will take on your troubles, and stuff them in other people’s bags or pockets when they aren’t looking.
In other words, give your problems to someone else. So the parents do as the lady advises — they make rag dolls and toss them into others’ baskets at a bustling market. Problem solved… but not really. The parents — and everyone else with problems in the play — soon learn that trying to float your problems away (or toss them into someone else’s grocery bags) doesn’t really make them go away. And maybe a baby is supposed to cry. Maybe a supposed problem isn’t really a problem at all. It’s a strong message not only for kids, but adults, too.
Talespinner shows are notable for their magical feeling. No special effects are used — and none are needed. TCT shows instead rely on creative, re-purposed costumes with a cultural flair (Polish in this case), quality made props and the power of imagination. The dolls, which the actors presented up close to kids after the show, were simple yet exquisitely made with attention to detail.
What really stood out about The Floating Dolls was the music. Actors sang impressively for my non-musical ears and the songs, which many audience members sang on their way out the door, were catchy and sweet. Also notable — a rhythmic drumming was used in place of a baby crying, thankfully. This conveyed the stressful nature of a baby’s cries in a much more palpable way than having to hear wahh wahh wahh.
All in all, Talespinner shows are reflective of the folk tales and fables they cover — timeless, well done and enjoyable for all ages.
[Photo: Steve Wagner. Shown L to R: Ben Merold, Debbie Keppler, Richie Gagen, Dan Rand, Hannah Storch]
The Floating Dolls runs through Sun 7/6 @ the Reinberger Auditorium in the Gordon Square Arts District.
Cool Cleveland editor Sarah Valek studied art and writing at Ithaca College. After graduation, she came back to Cle and served two years as an AmeriCorps*VISTA with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. She can be found on all sides of the city in pursuit of homeschooling activities for her son and the perfect soy latte. Contact her at CoolEditorATCoolCleveland.com or via Twitter.