"The Red Balloon", a 1956 French film is a new incarnation of charming, courtesy of Atlanta's own Theatre du Reve', which debuted a stage version, Friday night, at 7 Stages' Theatre. The show was sold-out for the first "adult audience" showing.(Please note: this "adult audience" designation does not mean R-rated action, it simply reflects the fact that only audiences of school-children have seen the play during morning hours.This is definitely a very family-friendly play.)
Park Cofield of the Center for Puppetry Arts, has fashioned(he adapted it for the stage, and also directs it) a play that feels as magical as the original short-film.
There are puppets, balloon(s) that bob when they should, sound effects, great musique(sounds more like what it IS, in French, oui?),and a set that carries us over the French countryside and into a tiny, quaint village. Indeed, the set itself acts as another character, transporting us not only into another place, but another time, as well...
We are treated to a narrator (the always chameleon-ish Park Krausen), as a coquettish girl-woman, and a mom to our hero, Pascal(played with great ease and the perfect percentage of adorableness and spitfire, by Leandre Thivierge), who observes the action, relating it to us, in volleying bits of both French and English(no need to worry if you've lost your French, the action onstage is clear even if you do not speak French), while a whining, puffing bus(a man carrying a very very clever cardboard mock-up of said bus) scurries about, and slogs up hills(the puppetry is genius!).
I must make mention of stellar performances all-around, especially Hubert(Christof Veillon) and Street Musician (Christopher Mont).The ensemble of children is remarkable, as they are very centered and in-the-moment, which is the goal of all acting: to be spontaneous, and for each moment to appear as if you are discovering it, for the first time...
Our little hero, Pascal, discovers his "Balloon Rouge" and...hilarity ensues.
The play is rather short, and that might be a negative for adults wanting a "big"(read:long) night out, but given that this is especially entertaining for young children, why not consider inviting the kids in your life(I'm thinking nieces, nephews, neighbor's kids, grandchildren, etc....) and have a real "kid's night out", beginning with "The Red Balloon", then a hop into the car to sing songs from the show, as you head to the nearest eatery for a meal before arriving home in plenty of time to tuck the kids in, at a very reasonable hour?
You'll forget all about the nightly news with its' fires, floods, unemployment, corruption, crime sprees, and war.
This is the kind of play that actually makes you feel like a child again.
When the best part of a day could be sharing the sunshine with a balloon you found.
Or on a rainy day, sharing an umbrella with a friendly stranger(Cue the nostalgia-button here: back when no one was a stranger, and children could indulge imagination, and were actually encouraged to do so).
When music, hopscotch, jumping rope, and a teacher's soothing voice was all you needed to feel joyful.
When a red ballooon listened to your words, and obeyed. And when that balloon ended, a revolution of balloons rose up in mighty defiance, to heaven.
And all was well, just as it always had been.