Aesop's Fables | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Aesop's Fables, Raven Theatre. Aesop's fables, passed down from the ancient Greek storyteller in various versions, are likely to remain among the stories we pass on to our children because they teach valuable lessons about human nature in entertaining ways. Raven Theatre's current show, adapted by Bill McGough and Michael Menendian and staged by Menendian and Scott Shallenbarger, proves that even a generation of kids surrounded by video projections and computer animation will be entertained by classic lessons about the persistent tortoise and the arrogant hare and the silly shepherd who alarmed his village by crying wolf when the tales are told well. Here an ensemble of three energetic actors--Sharmila Devarajan, Deborah Frieden, and Brad David Reed--swiftly change costumes and characters to speedily deliver six of Aesop's stories, bringing out the playful nature of storytelling.

Especially nice is the way the actors engage the children, involving them in decisions about whether their characters acted fairly. On the afternoon I caught the show, the children in the audience, who ranged in age from about two to ten, not only stayed in their seats but clapped and shouted and cheered for the characters. What better way for a kid to absorb a fable than to actually see the lazy, carefree grasshopper humble himself before the hardworking ant, who saved up enough food to last through the winter while the grasshopper played?

--Gabrielle S. Kaplan

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