Adapting a classic to the stage is no easy feat, particularly adapting it in such a way that children of all ages will understand it and be engaged. However, CATCO is Kids’s production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, adapted by their own Steven Anderson, does just that, bringing the classic story to life in an intimate and engaging way that holds the attention and fascination of its audience.
The one-act play tells the adventures of Tom Sawyer and his friend Huck Finn, but it’s not told in the way you’d expect. The entire story is narrated by the two main characters and Mark Twain, and is told in such a way that it’s more like a few separate stories rather than one giant tale. The play starts with the character of Mark Twain introducing himself to the audience, and quickly brings in the two grown-up versions of Tom and Huck, who decide that they want to reminisce on their childhood antics. The rest of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer feeds off that theme—remembering their biggest adventures, and how that got them where they are today.
The cast of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is small but mighty. Nick Baldasare, as Mark Twain and other supporting characters, is versatile and engaging. Baldasare embodies several different characters easily and as Twain makes it easy for the audience to follow along on the smaller tales as they go along. Ben Hartwig, as Huckleberry Finn, and Joe Dallacqua, as Tom Sawyer, are both incredibly entertaining, engaging, and have an amazing chemistry. It’s easy to see them as best friends who have gotten into all kinds of scrapes together, and their dialogue flows easily and quickly.
The play is simple, but entertaining, and the set matches that tone. While there are not many set pieces, and few costume changes, the ones that are used are impressive. In particular, the wooden box that sits in the middle of the room is used in several different ways, to depict several different scenes, throughout the play—from graves in a graveyard to a raft, it changes when you least expect it. If anything, the simplicity of the set design makes the story all that more interesting—rather than having the set, lighting, or costumes overshadowing the story itself, the story is brought to the center as the most important.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a play that any age would enjoy. Its engaging cast, and entertaining story, makes for another CATCO is Kids success. It will be playing through October 13 at the Riffe Center in downtown Columbus.