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Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009

Fear and Frivolity

Theater Review

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Children's author Roald Dahl had a knack for writing stories that were both funny and frightening, a quality perfectly realized in Marquette University's production of Dahl's BFG, which ran last weekend only at the Weasler Auditorium.

The protagonists are the orphaned Sophie (Alexandra Bonesho) and the Big Friendly Giant (Mohammed Elbsat) who introduces her to the grim and savage world of the giants. As the giants embark on a feeding frenzy in England and Sweden (drawn by the population's "Swede'n'sour" taste) Sophie encounters a brutal life form running parallel and sometimes painfully converging with the innocent world of slumbering infants.

As grisly as it sounds, the tale is also full of humor and heroism amply relayed by the talented cast. The BFG entertains the Queen of England (Sarah Kover) with a symphony of farts; Mohammed Elbsat does a good job relaying the BFG's idiosyncratic diction. The only extraneous element was the framing of the story as a play staged by a young girl and her friends. However, the reason for this embellishment became clear as the play progressed. The main problem attending any BFG production is how to give form to its 24-foot protagonist. This was solved here by using dolls as stand-ins for the humans whenever the giants were on stage, adding at times an uncanny aura and at others a dose of slapstick humor. Many scenes are lit with lurid light and stylized movements that lend them the hue of Eastern European puppet animation. These scenes were interchanged with moments of humor and magic, a compelling blend that was Dahl's trademark.
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