Charlotte's Web | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Charlotte's Web

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Charlotte's Web, Homegrown Theatre Company, at WNEP Theater. In Joseph Robinette's loyal adaptation of E.B. White's children's classic, Susan Wingerter as likable Wilbur the pig and Jenny Lamb as the smart, selfless spider Charlotte make a winning pair. The production also features an amusingly grumpy rat (Ryan Mcabe), a giddy Goose and Gander (Jen Santenello and Jonathan Web), and three cheery narrators exuding homespun charm. But this 60-minute show will delight only die-hard fans blinded by their love for White's story of farmyard friendship and self-sacrifice. Director J. Preddie Predmore accomplishes great feats of traffic control in maneuvering his large cast around a small stage, but he's got everyone galloping through their lines so fast there's no time to make any connection with the characters.

This is a capable production that does little to make us care about the end: it's in the final scenes that the show's harried pace and forced pep create real problems. Wilbur's hurried good-bye to Charlotte lacks emotional impact. Then, when a narrator tells us the heroic spider can no longer move, Lamb climbs down from her web. The news of her death is delivered in a matter-of-fact manner without drama. Ultimately this faithful but only sporadically cute and funny show for young audiences has no climax.

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