The Velveteen Rabbit – An Atlanta Theater Fans Review

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The Velveteen Rabbit at Serenbe Playhouse

Ryan Ortega and Sam Constantino star in The Velveteen Rabbit. Photo by BreeAnne Clowdus

What is real? Sounds like a deep existential question for a children’s story, doesn’t it? However, Serenbe Playhouse’s The Velveteen Rabbit explores the subject in a palatable way for both children and adults.

Based on an original concept by Robyn Young, Rachel Teagle has written and adapted an entertaining and smart script from Margery Williams’ beloved tale. Directed by Brian Clowdus, the production includes choreography by Bubba Carr.

Set against the scenic back drop of The Grange Creek, the show unfolds delightfully as it amuses with Teagle’s humorous quips and penchant for weaving a touching and timely story. Taking place in post civil war Savannah, the story follows the Velveteen Rabbit in his adventures with the boy who loves him and his quest to become to become “real.”  With a few differences, the heart of the classic story remains, but it is told in a fresh and unique way.

Each of the characters, while mostly toys, have relatable characteristics for anyone watching, making the theme of the production easy to grasp for the younger viewers. The performance also includes audience interaction at various points to keep the little ones engaged, not that they need it much.

One of the characters that quickly wins over the audience is Skin Horse, played by Tyrell Ruffin. Sort of the wise narrator, the character guides the Velveteen Rabbit and the audience, but it is the horse-like mannerism and vocalizations, along with Teagle’s dialogue and Ruffin’s comedic sensibility, that makes Skin Horse so loveable.

Ryan Ortega’s Velveteen Rabbit has a childlike sense of wonder and a charm that endears him to the audience. He carries the show with ease. Sam Constantino plays Samuel, the little boy whose love turns the Velveteen Rabbit real. He displays a playful attitude that highlights his mature skills as an actor.

Mary Hadsell, as Maggie, gives a memorable performance as a dilapidated wind-up ballerina, and she shows considerable skill as she contorts and moves in jerky motions as a broken down toy might. During one scene, she dances a captivating ballet sequence. Rounding out the talented cast are Kelli Owens as Nana/Fairy, Ryan Stillings as Beau and Brantley Ivey as Wild Hare.

Perfect for children and adults, The Velveteen Rabbit provides a wonderful experience for the whole family. Performed outdoors, it plays through July 27, 2013 at The Grange Creek in Serenbe. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website. The show’s run time is about an hour with no intermission.

– Kenny Norton