When I was pregnant with my son, I read an article that suggested I read at night out loud to him. Being a bibliophile, I had quite a few options. Would it be my go-to favorite, The Velveteen Rabbit, or Peter Pan (a strong contender seeing that the nursery theme was Peter Pan). However, I was drawn to a beautiful copy of Charlotte’s Web, which I bought and began reading out loud. There was something that just made sense, reading a book about kindness, the power of words and the importance of friendship to my child before I even met him. Since then, Charlotte has poked out of her web a few times in our lives. When Brady was in the second grade and came home from school to tell me that his teacher had assigned Charlotte’s Web as a reading assignment in class, I was ecstatic. I even adapted it once when I ran a drama program at a local early learning center. So when I heard the news that Epic Theatre Company was offering an adaptation of this beloved story, I was intrigued and thrilled that it meant I could bring my son to a night of theater. And in usual Epic fashion, they did not disappoint.
This adaptation by Karen Foster is perfect for the Epic model; it’s innovative and lends itself to the craft of storytelling. This is not a production with actors in costumes to resemble animals, it’s a production that values the beautiful words E.B. White wrote over 60 years ago. This production has heart and nostalgia, and was evidently crafted with love.
Kevin Broccoli assembled a superb cast for this production, and for the exception of the roles of Wilbur, Charlotte and Templeton, everyone is playing double duty. The entire cast is terrific; there is no weak link. They absolutely 100% made this book come alive. Ian Hudgins as Wilbur is absolutely perfect; he’ll make you laugh one moment, and the next make you want to help rescue him from his fate. Justin Pimental’s Templeton was a highlight, and I must point out, my son’s favorite. Betsy Rinaldi did a wonderful job as Fern, it’s not always easy to play a child, and Rinaldi did so with empathy and did not make her Fern a caricature of a young girl. Kerry Giorgi was as sophisticated and loving as the Charlotte in your head when you’re reading the book. Ibrahima Tylar Jahumpa was every bit the energetic Avery, ready to destroy Charlotte one moment, and running out of the barn the next. Samantha Gaus sets the stage perfectly with her commanding presence as both a narrator and Goose. Laura Ash switched from Gander to Lurvy seamlessly, and had some funny moments, not always found in Lurvy. Ryan Leverone’s Homer was kinder than the one in the book, his love for his niece, and his admiration of that terrific pig were clear for all to see. Sarah Quintiliani as the Old Sheep was splendid, and last but not least, Vanessa Paige was delightful.
If you’ve been to Epic’s space at 50 Rolfe Square, you know that it’s intimate. A company with less creativity would have trouble in this space, but that isn’t what happens here. The lights worked in conjunction with the elements of the magic Charlotte spun from her web. The blackbox was the perfect blank page for the story to unfold, especially when it came to Charlotte’s web itself.
Although most people will hear about this show and think it’s just something to bring kids to, I wholeheartedly believe that adults should rush to see this. It will fill you with nostalgia and put a smile on your face. In a time where kindness is so rare it becomes newsworthy, it does your soul good to watch a play about kindness. This is truly a play for kids and adults alike.
And yes, I cried. Like a baby. And although my son claims I cry at everything, there is something about this story that gets me every time. This is not just a story about a pig and his friendship with a spider. This is a story about the power of friendship, selflessness and the power of words. The family friendly show has showtimes at 7pm, and the entire production is under an hour. There is no intermission. Which is perfect for these long days of summer spent in the sun!
It is not often that a play comes along that is heartwarming and speaks to the power of words. Epic’s Charlotte’s Web is both.
Epic Theatre Company’s Charlotte’s Web runs through July 27 at Artists’ Exchange, 50 Rolfe Square, Cranston.