April 2, 2001
Going Out: 'Sideways Stories' sends audiences to a wacky wonderland
by Deborah Stone
Seattle Children's Theatre (SCT) completes its 2000-2001 season with the world premiere of "Sideways Stories from Wayside School," based on the best-selling Wayside School series by Newbery Award-winning author Louis Sachar.
"Sideways Stories from Wayside School" takes audiences into a wacky wonderland where schools are 30 stories high, pigtails can talk, computers are dropped out the window to illustrate the law of gravity and wicked teachers transform their students into apples.
Playwright John Olive has adapted Sachar's beloved stories for the stage and Jeff Steitzer, well known for his comedic talents, directs the show.
The beauty of this adaptation is that it respects Sachar's writing and stays close to the content of the original books. SCT's production uses Sachar's comical eye and satirical sense to depict situations and relationships between teachers and students on the 30th floor of the tallest school in the world (an architectural error!).
The stories are broad in humor and scope, but the essence of the nature of the relationships between these two groups rings true. The show is big on laughs, from the bright neon colored set, tilted and askew (designed by Edie Whitsett), to the pair of large red lips popping out of a megaphone making the principal's daily announcements.
A talented cast with the gift of comedic timing and over-the-top body language makes Sachar's characters come alive.
Marianne Owen does quadruple duty with her portrayals of evil teacher Mrs. Gorf and her son Clarence; eccentric psychiatrist, Mr. Pickle; and colorful Miss Valoosh, the tango teacher. Michael Black plays the role of Myron, a boy with a fixation on yanking the pigtails of fellow student Leslie (Kimber Lee). Black has all the nerd tendencies down well and is able to add the element of uncontrollable impulses to illustrate his darker side without making himself too maniacal.
Carol Roscoe, Lisa Strum and Jason Collins portray the other students (BeBe, Rhondi and Dameon) with healthy doses of child-like enthusiasm and energy. They easily communicate the joys and fears that many children experience in their elementary years and are thus easy to relate to for audiences of all ages.
Katie Forgette, as Mrs. Jewls, does a fine job with her role as the sweeter, gentler teacher with unconventional teaching methods, and Mark Anders, as playground teacher Louis, is memorable for his hilarious "Saturday Night Fever" disco dance scene. "Sideways Stories from Wayside School" is abundant with good-natured fun and madcap hilarity, making it an afternoon or evening of ideal family entertainment.
The show runs through June 10. For ticket information call (206) 441-3322.