Dr. Seuss's book The Lorax came out in 1971, but I don't think I've ever read it, at least not that I remember. I can't speak to how closely the adaptation follows the book, but much of the dialogue sounds very Seussian, as if playwright David Greig lifted it directly from the book. The story-within-the-story is told when an old man who lives in a secluded tower is asked to tell the story of the Lorax, whose name is on the base of a statue that says "unless." He reluctantly agrees, and we enter the Once-ler's story. As a youngster he was kicked out of his hard-working but greedy family's house to find his fortune. He eventually arrives in a beautiful valley populated with Truffula trees, and decides to knit something from their silky tops. When he cuts down one of the trees to get more knitting material, a small orange creature called the Lorax appears and tells him to stop. He's a caretaker and protector of the trees, who cannot speak for themselves. The Once-ler agrees, until the Lorax leaves and someone comes along and buys his knitted thing, which he calls a thneed. Believing this is the thing that will make him rich, he calls his family and they open a factory, cutting down more and more trees and polluting the valley with smog and runoff from the factory. Lorax and his friends try to stop him, but Once-ler's greed knows no bounds, and he only stops when the trees run out, and his success disappears as quickly as it came. He wants to be friends with Lorax again, but that's impossible, and Lorax leaves the valley that is now devoid of trees and animals. "Who knew The Lorax was such a depressing story." But it's not depressing, it's a warning. And Once-ler realizes that we must all be like the Lorax and defend and protect the trees.
|Meghan Kriedler, Rick Miller, and H. Adam Harris as the Lorax
with Steven Epp as the Once-ler (photo by Dan Norman)
|the fish trio (photo by Dan Norman)
The storytellers are dressed in what I would say was depression-era Americana garb,
except this show is from England. Whatever it is, it serves as a sort of neutral against which the bright colors of the animals and Once-lers pop. The set is pretty magical, from the warm and fuzzy Truffula trees descending from the ceiling, to the simple but cool effects to create the fish's pond and shadows through the forest, to the massive factory machines. Charming puppets are used to represent not just the Lorax, but also fish and birds, manipulated by the versatile and hard-working ensemble.
I had a fantastic #TCTheater Earth Day weekend, with both Market Garden Theatre's production of Eric Coble's My Barking Dog and Old Vic/Old Globe/Children's Theatre's production of Dr. Seuss's The Lorax reminding me that Nature is all around, and must be respected. Or things could go very very long. Unless...
The charming, magical, fun, and poignant Dr. Seuss's The Lorax continues at CTC through June 10 and then moves on to speak for trees in San Diego, and hopefully around the world.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.