Fun House Theatre and Film
Director – Jeff Swearingen
Animal Heads – Gabrielle Grafrath
Accompanist – Mose Pleasure
Horse – Jassiah Barrera
Bacon – Lijah Barrera
Sheep 2 – Kathryn Baxter
Old McDonald – Jaxon Beeson
Cow 1 – Lauren Burgess
Sheep 1 – Savanna Cagle
Donkey – Dalton Craft
Chicken – Karina Cunningham
Chick – Piper Cunningham
Pig Dad – Alexander Duva
Mayor – Liam Fitzmaurice
Mama Pig – Charlotte Foree
Duck – Dax Foree
Fox – Matthew Gay
New McDonald – Blake Martin
Rat – Conor McAller
Goat – Megan McMurray
Dog – Savannah McNeil
Wolf – Ilyena Metzger
Cow 2 – Hannah Moore
Jellyfish/Squirrel – Natalie Nobel
Rooster – Joe Natavi
Mouse – Sydney Pitts
Scarecrow – Doak Rapp
Swan – Glori Roller
Cat – Zoe Smithey
Reviewed Performance 8/19/2016
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Fun House Theatre and Film isn’t just a children’s theatre. It has at its core a focus on entertaining everyone who walks into their small space, regardless of their age, and Old McDonald Had a Farm certainly stays true to that focus.
This may come as a huge surprise, but the setting of the play is, well, a farm. It is a fun exploration of weighty topics including politics, presidencies, and social justice issues. Written by Jeff Swearingen, who is one of the founders of this unique theatre, the script is nothing short of brilliant. The words are intricately woven into a dialogue that is appealing in its simplicity, hilarious at its surface, and deeply meaningful at its conclusion. It was interesting to eavesdrop on audience members at intermission. There were some who “just didn’t get it” and others, like myself, who couldn’t wait until the action began again. As I contemplated what this meant, I realized the message in this play is one that everyone should hear. Those who just don’t get it need to hear the message and those who did need to heed the message. It is at the same time a humorous expose of human nature and a swift call to action. The fact that Fun House provides the opportunity for young people to shine in the performance of such a solid script is a testament to its well-deserved spot in the serious DFW theatre community.
The stage is decorated as one would expect a children’s play to be. A simply painted back wall depicting a barn with blue skies, puffy white clouds, along with the floor painted as grass is the composition of the entire set. The costumes are a whimsical and creative blend of street clothes that bring to mind the animals being depicted in the style of a children's pageant. For example, Dax Foree’s duck costume consisted of a dashing brown vest that suggested feathers, topped with headgear colored like a Mallard’s head, complete with white collar. Each animal had a similar costume, with street clothes and headgear designed by Gabrielle Grafrath. The simplicity of the costumes and the minimalist set created an atmosphere where the words being said and the actions being depicted told the story, with set and costumes a compliment rather than a distraction.
One costume was especially superb. Doak Rapp, in the role of Scarecrow, had an extremely well-done coif of straw which left no doubt as to who his character represented. Rounding out the costume was a stick balanced across Rapp’s neck and shoulders and makeup suggesting a stitched mouth.
All of the children performing in the play were age 17 or younger. The quality of their performance shined as each understood the importance of comedic timing and genuinely stayed in character throughout the play. I am impressed at the ability of these young people to tackle a topic which has adult meaning and deliver such a strong message. I want to say Bravo! to each and every one of the cast members. Some of the actors really shined through and provided a strong foundation for the evening’s entertainment.
As mentioned earlier, Doak Rapp portrayed the Scarecrow. This character was brilliantly written into the script and Rapp translated the words into some of the most enjoyable scenes of the evening. He delivered each line impeccably with a deadpan look and perfect timing.
Jaxon Beeson as Old McDonald did a superb job with his delivery. With familiar words jumbled into ridiculous proverbs, Beeson never faltered in his enthusiasm and timing, portraying the outgoing farmer with aplomb.
Cows 1 and 2 were played by Lauren Burgess and Hannah Moore. This duo provided a comic view of skepticism in our society. Bringing human facial expressions and attitude to the cows, the result was a pair of characters who seemed familiar and were certainly entertaining.
Megan McMurray did an excellent job portraying the incessantly determined Goat. Her confident delivery and strong voice rose above the others to deliver the comedy her role provided.
As I mentioned earlier, every young person in the cast did an excellent job. There were no weak links. Their performances and the story itself are true works of art and well worth seeing.
OLD MCDONALD HAD A FARM: A CHILDREN’S FABLE ABOUT THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY
Fun House Theatre and Film
1301 Dolphin Drive #706, Plano, Texas 75075
Plays through August 27th
Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 pm, and Saturday at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $8.00; For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.funhousetheatreandfilm.com or email the box office at email@example.com. .