Sackerson’s production of The Little Prince (adapted from the children’s book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, script by Rick Cummins and John Scoullar) invites you into a magical world usually only seen through the eyes of children, and leaves you wondering if you ever truly left.
The three-year-old theatre company is at the forefront of the city’s edgier productions. Their most recent production, Shockheaded Peter, a gruesome cabaret on the dark and strange side of performance, left audiences taken aback, but wanting more. Earlier this year they produced SONDER, an interactive immersive theatre experience in the old downtown club space The Bay. Keeping true to their credo of new works in unconventional spaces, The Little Prince is minimalist by design and fringe-worthy by nature.
From the moment you walk through the door, the atmosphere that director Dave Mortensen has created calls to mind the sort of play put on for the very young. The stage is bare; a string of lights illuminates the playing space, chalkboards decorate the pillars, and the sound of French café music filters through the air.
Beginning with the simplicity of the set, this production takes the audience on a journey back in time—by way of the memories of an adult and the many worlds of the imagination as seen through a child’s eyes.
“It’s only with the heart that one can see clearly. What’s essential is invisible to the eye.” The beauty of the book’s most famous line is underscored throughout the production. In the first 15 minutes of the play, the audience is asked to imagine a plane crash in the vast expanses of the Sahara, an elephant inside a snake, and a world of planets thousands of miles away.
Using chalk, a ladder, and some green Spandex gloves, Sackerson draws the audience into believing in this world created by the Aviator (Alex Ungerman) and the Little Prince (McKenzie Steele Foster).
The magic of this play resides in the space left open for your mind to imagine these worlds far away, and to believe in the characters that seem so much larger than life. The allegory runs through from the beginning: In order to see clearly, you must open your heart and suspend your expectations.
Shawn Saunders, playing the Fox, Men, and ukulele, gives a most notable performance. By paying close attention to physicality, voice, and tempo, rather than relying on a few quick costume changes, he embodies the archetypes of adults who have lost their ability to see past the “important” aspects of life. It is his characterization of the Fox, however, that captures the audience with a distinctly non-human portrayal.
Graham Brown’s choreography for Amy Ware as the Snake is another highlight. Combined with a costume that limited the use of her arms, Ware’s performance also strays away from being entirely human. Down to the details, and true to a snake’s real behaviors, Ware hardly even blinks her eyes and gives a chilling performance.
Some of the other choreography, on the other hand, still needs some polishing. It is clear what direction is intended, but the execution of some lifts and other proposed moves are not very clean. Those portions become less about the magic of the story and more about the choreography. Perhaps this is in part due to the fact that the actors aren’t dancers. If that’s so, I applaud their commitment.
McKenzie Steele Foster gives an enchanting performance as the Little Prince that rings true to the innocence, honesty and wonder of a child. The relationship between the Aviator and the Little Prince blossoms and grows into a true friendship.
I would encourage anyone, young or old, to go and see Sackerson’s production of The Little Prince. It invites you to leave the drudgery of adult life behind and to again experience the world through the unjaded eyes of a child.
DATES: November 24th – December 23rd
LOCATION: The Art Factory, 193 West 2100 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84115
PRICE: $10-17 online/ $20 at the door