Arctic’s Kindergarten Reminds Audiences of their A, B, Cs and 1, 2, 3s

ARCTICKINDLooking for a feelgood, easy evening? Grab some friends and head over to the Arctic Playhouse for a heartwarming production and some delicious homemade cookies.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten is a delightful grownup refresher course in fundamentals. Music, monologues and sweet vignettes are woven together to remind the audience of life’s simplest and most important lessons. Written by Ernest Zulia and based on Robert Fulghum’s best-selling book of the same name, Kindergarten is a guaranteed crowd pleaser and Arctic played it just right by allowing the storytelling to take center stage.

The play is a collection of songs, monologues, dialogues and multiple voice narrations. The pleasant cast of six shares a variety of delightful stories and lessons. One is of a man whose dream of flying carries him high over Los Angeles in a lawn chair buoyed by surplus weather balloons. Another explores the acceptance of adulthood in relationship to the “stuff” that needs cleaning in the drain of a kitchen sink. Yet another delves into the powerful impact of a solitary stone bench with a quiet view.

The Arctic Playhouse occupies a delightful storefront space in West Warwick. The lobby is cozy and welcoming with so many thoughtful touches. From the smell of fresh cut lilacs, to the cast photos, to the complimentary warm chocolate chip cookies and popcorn.

Arctic seems devoted to fostering a sense of community and the growth of developing artists. This production of Kindergarten offers the perfect opportunity for director Diane Lupo and cast to shine. Ms. Lupo has done an excellent job of encouraging the raw talent in her cast, novice and veteran performers alike.

Lynda DiStefano is genuine and endearing whether as the MOTB (Mother of the Bride) you want to share a bottle of wine with or the stargazer who finds peace, wrapped in a blanket atop her future burial site. Jeffrey Massery could not be more charming. Each hat, jacket and apron he donned brought a new earnest character to life. Maureen Noel is at once joyous and mischievous. Rose Racine gave an insightful and soulful performance, while Britney Verria, a talented local artist, transitioned seamlessly between supportive teacher, grandmother in awe and compassionate storyteller. The tone and tambour of Russ Smith’s voice could read a phone book and it would be absolutely delightful. But perhaps an even bigger gift to the production was the compassionate sincerity the entire cast seemed to extend to each other and each story.

Unfortunately, there was no accompanist for the production and singing to recordings is difficult and limiting for both the performer and the audience. Wisely, some of the more wordy songs were replaced with monologues. And, thankfully, the remaining songs worked as a passionate and thematic thread that tied the otherwise disparate stories into a cohesive whole.

In need of an editing eye, there were moments where Kindergarten struggled with pacing, especially during scene changes. However, the clever audience member would be well served by grabbing a few extra cookies — the tone and message of each vignette is endearing enough to deserve a moment’s pause and an extra nibble. You’ll leave satisfied by a casual evening of storytelling full of tenderness, grace and enthusiasm.

Let’s face it, between the constant bombardment of negative news from Washington, the final season of “Game of Thrones” or what seems to be endless spring rain, most of us could use a bit of a cheering up. Many of us could also do with a pulling up of our pants, getting down to the hard work ahead of us and remembering that the endless spring rains will bring a lush and beautiful summer.

All I Ever Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten will run at The Arctic Playhouse through May 26. 117 Washington Street, West Warwick, RI  02893. Performances run Thursday, Friday & Saturday evening at 7:30 pm, Sunday matinees at 2pm. More information is available at 

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