Campy. Plain and simple campy—and enjoyable when new playwright Kevin King borrowed pieces of two classic books and co-mingled their characters and story lines to create his first full-length piece, “Flowers in the Wardrobe,” based on pieces from Flowers in the Attic and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that opened May 10 at The Arts Asylum in Kansas City, Mo.
King’s comedy takes the stories, twists them together, and then pushes them into the absurd with wacky characters, unorthodox situations, and disturbing dialogue to wring as much comedy as possible in each scene. The story features a wicked grandmother, an uncaring mother, two male children, two female children, two talking beavers, a talking fawn, a seemingly nice witch and more.
“Flowers in the Wardrobe’ is a magical tale of young love, incest, talking animals, and imprisonment that has delighted children and adults alike for generations,” said Kevin King, playwright. “We’re so excited to have Steven Eubank on board as director. His campy aesthetic is a perfect fit for the crazy story I’ve written,” King said.
According to King, the story tells the comically twisted tale of children forced to live in an attic at their grandmother's house after their mother leaves them. Left on their own devices, they seek comfort in cookie binges, dirty dancing, and loving each other and all the wrong ways. Everything changes when a magical wardrobe offers the children a chance for adventure and escape, pressing them into the land of talking beavers, a seemingly trustworthy fawn, and a witch bearing Turkish Delights.
“Flowers in the Wardrobe” is a fun evening that even includes a drinking game for those brave enough to try to try to take a swig every time something is said or happens. The show is a full two hour production with 15 minute intermission so the audience can stretch its legs refresh their drinks for part two of the drinking game.
Eubank assembled a very highly talented cast to bring King’s work to life. The cast is: Stephanie Stevens as Cathy, Matt Sweeten as Christopher, Alisa Lynn as Carrie, J. Will Fritz as Corey, Amy Kelly as Corrine/White Witch, Genewa Stanwyck as Grandmother Foxworth, Andy Perkins as Mr. Tumnus/Bartholomew/Father, Pete Bakely as Mr. Beaver/male servant, Diane Bulan as Mrs. Beaver/female servant/lady cop/Dora, and Philip blue owl Hooser as Aslan/priest.
Each actor took chances with his or her characters and pushed them to the absurd. All performed as an ensemble cast should perform. Each brought something new and different to each character. Give lots of credit to Fritz, Bulan, Bakely, and Perkins for performing in heavy costumes in a theater where the air conditioning was not functioning correctly on opening night. They suffered in the heat but their performance stayed strong with no breaks in character.
A fun filled show brings lots of laughs, several groans, plenty of opportunities to imbibe (if you play the drinking game), and allows the audience to just sit back and enjoy what unfolds before them. No one who attends should expect a “classic” theater experience. This is sheer fun and absurdity.
The biggest weakness of the show would come from someone not familiar with the two pieces that were combined to create this play. Some knowledge of each piece certainly helps anyone who attends. Perhaps an added scene between the mother and the grandmother might help bridge and explain the story a bit better and give the audience a better idea of the two story lines.
The creative team included: King, Eubank, Ashley Pike, Regina Weller, Tab Tremi, Laura Burkhart, Alex Perry, Joseph Concha, Chris Bowe, and Elizabeth Green.
The show is produced by Whim Productions and runs through May 31. Planned future performances are: May 16, 17, 19, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31 at 8 p.m.;18, 25 at 6 p.m.; 24 at 2 p.m.; and 30, 31 at 11 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance at flowersinthewardrobe.brownpapertickets.com for $20 or at the theatre box office.