Sunsong | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Splinter Group, at the Theatre Building.

I'm into children's books. Where the Wild Things Are, The Cat in the Hat, and Leopard on a String occupy cherished places atop my night table, because they conjure up amazing visions rarely created by adult fiction. But children's theater usually drives me up a wall with its cloying, patronizing tone and its knack for robbing tales of their magic and mystery.

Which is why Splinter Group's Sunsong, written and directed by Kristine Hipps, is a welcome surprise. Tightly written, crisply performed, and beautifully designed, this production is like a great kids' book. It's composed of three folktales about the enchanting power of the sun: an African legend explaining how the sun and moon got up in the sky, a moving, hypnotic Native American tale about a boy who calls upon the sun and moon to rescue his dying grandfather, and a European fairy tale concerning a vain princess who learns the true meaning of love from the prince of the noonday sun.

At times Splinter Group's five-member cast are a bit too enthusiastic, and Marc Francoeur's pleasant, hummable songs don't add much; but Sunsong triumphs because its unpredictable stories are so engaging. The final tale, in which the princess is held captive by a monster disguised as a prince, is particularly fun to watch, with its witty dialogue, nerve-racking suspense, and wonderful masks by Rick Fredric. I could have done without the actors admonishing the audience to tell stories at home instead of watching the boob tube, but the entertainment value of the stories themselves is undeniable.

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