Once you enter this virtual adventure, you’re greeted immediately by the hosts. During this welcome, microphones and cameras are checked, navigation is confirmed and off you go to a breakout room to practice your attention skills. The digital stage is then set: you’ve been stuck at home, where devices have taken over both your social and productive interactions (sound familiar?), but now a door you’ve never seen before appears. An actor informs you she is Your Voice and urges you to find a way in. You offer to knock and to push, to no avail. If only there was a key!
Your Voice asks if you, perchance, received something in the mail, something that resembles an adventure suitcase. Of course you did! It said on the seal do not open, but now Your Voice tells you to do so. You break the seal and open the small brown suitcase, which spills out several colorful items — including a key that gains you entry through the mysterious door. Thus begins this choosical musical — apropos with topical content, developmental education, and an innovative theatrical-virtual hybrid style.
It Takes Three and a Village
It’s worth mentioning that the entire adventure is executed by three performers: Your Voice (Gabrielle Maiden), who guides you through the narrative, and two ensemble members (Michael Faulkner and Shyla Lefner) who don many hats to portray the remaining city inhabitants who haven’t left town due to The Stench — a villain of odorous proportions. All of them sing songs that either further the plot or offer a learning opportunity, some in a Seuss-like manner, some akin to Sesame Street. These characters often need help from the participating children to solve the next move via puzzles and tools, with various elements of the suitcase coming into use a la Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. The story and especially the wordplay (fun with homophones) are reminiscent of The Phantom Tollbooth. There are numerous other children’s educainment entities that it pays homage to and even a sense of meta-reality as this virus, ahem, Stench, keeps everyone apart.
Geffen Playhouse Leans into the Limitations of Predicaments
It is the view of this parent-child reviewer team that Geffen Stayhouse (part of Geffen Playhouse) is leading the way in theatrical-virtual hybrid presentations. The production makes the best out of a necessity and employs any resource for its thrival: green screens, puppets, virtual backgrounds, real-time participation, and pre-recorded media, to name a few. This adventure can be enjoyed by any child with basic reading and math skills up to middle school, although you’re never too old for an adventure, are you? Perhaps we all need a reminder that in the face of the unknown, you’re more likely to keep your eyes peeled. Who knows? Maybe a door you never saw before will appear.
For more information, visit the Geffen Playhouse website.
Images courtesy of The Geffen Playhouse, unless otherwise indicated.
About the Author: Tonika Todorova and her son Jaxon DuFloth
Tonika Todorova is a freelance writer and director that goes by the self imposed title of Adventure Architect. She experiences a lot of performance with her eight year old son, Jaxon, by her side, and his reflections on Chicago theatre offer a refreshingly new perspective for her, and hopefully, others. Jaxon practices autonomous learning and is proud to be an Albany Park Chicago Children's Choir singer. Tonkia and Jaxon also enjoy reviewing children's books together. You can learn more about them and their experience writing for Picture This Post by watching this Picture This Post YouTube video.