BY TAMAR NEUMANN: Have you ever stopped to think about the sounds you hear every day? Do you notice the soft click, clack of a button in the dryer, the low purr of a lawn mower in the backyard, a joyful screech from a toddler, or the tap, tap of the keys on your keyboard? What would it take for you to re-produce those sounds exactly? While some of the sounds may seem easy to re-produce, others may appear to be quite challenging. This is where the Foley artist shines. These magicians of sound are able to re-create almost any noise, and they often do it with incredible creativity. The word “artist” is in their title and they deserve that designation as much as any musical, visual or theatrical artist I have ever witnessed. The newest production by Swandive Theatre, Kid Simple: a radio play in the flesh, is a tribute to these artists and it focuses on the beauty of sound.
The plot of the play is both grounded and mystical. Moll, a young inventor, creates a machine that can hear every sound. Because her machine is so powerful the villains want it. They hatch a plan to steal the machine from her and, after they have it, Moll hatches a plan to get it back and get her revenge. Meanwhile her parents are avid listeners of a spy radio show about a villain who wants a very special cello from a kindergarten teacher. The two story lines cross over and the adventures of Moll, her guidebook, and virgin companion become quite fantastical. Meanwhile, a lovely omniscient narrator helps the audience through the entire journey.
The heart of this play is really the Foley artist, Derek Trost, acting the part of Moll’s hearing machine—The Third Ear. He doesn’t say anything, but his sounds create the atmosphere of the play. The Third Ear is really the main character of the play. Rarely are sounds so emphasized during a theatre production. Of course, this is intentional, but not in an annoying way. Each time a sound is created the description of the sound is projected on the back or side walls as it would appear in the script. This emphasis on sound draws your attention to how important sounds are to a production as a whole. At the end, the sound disappears and the stark contrast between the cacophony of sounds and the complete silence further illustrates the significance of music, noise, and sound to a theatrical production.
Sound is only one piece of this play, though and luckily there is also a silly story to go along with that sound. The narrative takes its cues from old radio shows where acting and story are often over the top. This is performed all in good fun and the whole piece comes together rather nicely as both serious and melodramatic. Boo Segersin is a strong Moll. She is spunky, intelligent, and independent. Segersin easily slips between the various roles she has to play at the different moments of Moll’s adventures in the play. Both Sarah Broude and Kevin McLaughlin are great in their four roles. They easily slip between being Moll’s parents and the villains. But their crowning roles are as Miss Kendrick and Mr. Wachtel, the radio personalities in the spy show. Broude shows her range as she easily transforms into the over-dramatic, soft-spoken Miss Kendrick.
All of the actors are required to play multiple roles and they easily slip in and out of their various personalities. Perhaps the most fun to watch was Kip Dooley as The Mercenary (and various other roles including a seductive fig tree). His character’s talent is the ability to transform into anything, and Dooley, as an actor, seems to be able to easily maintain that talent. He was a pleasure to watch transform throughout the play.
Kid Simple: a radio play in the flesh is, quite simply, a fun experience. It’s both serious and silly. You’ll find yourself laughing at the situations that seem familiar (and even at the unfamiliar ones), but you’ll also find yourself contemplating some of the more serious elements that are just beneath the surface. But that, to me, is the earmark of a great comedy: its ability to make you both laugh and think at all the right moments.
Kid Simple: a radio play in the flesh. April 29-May22, 2016. Swandive Theatre company at the Southern Theatre, 1420 S. Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN. Tickets: $24 GA, $18 students, Free for ARTshare members; purchase tickets https://southern.ticketworks.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=41