All Childish Things – An Atlanta Theater Fans Review

Enoch King, Cara Mantella, Bryan Brendle & Michael Jared Tarver. Photo by Allie Bartelski

Enoch King, Cara Mantella, Bryan Brendle and Michael Jared Tarver. Photo by Allie Bartelski

The Star Wars movies have woven themselves in our cultural fabric, and fan boys (and girls) of all ages just can’t get enough of it. Look at how many Star Wars costumes are at Dragon Con. With All Childish Things, Aurora Theatre can tap into that phenomenon and bring in audiences that might otherwise avoid going to the theater, much in the same way that musicals like Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon do.

Whether anyone wants to admit or not, there’s someone in each person’s circle of friends and acquaintances that are like one of the characters on the stage. It is that thread that connects the audience with the characters as they go on their romp to steal Star Wars collectibles.

The premise of the story is a basic heist plot. There is Dave (Michael Jared Tarver) who lives in mother’s basement and like all the characters, except one, is obsessed with Star Wars. Figurines, posters and collectables fill the room. He even has an air locked vault for his most prizes possessions. But, he has an insatiable need for more rare collectables. When Dave (Bryan Brendle) and girlfriend Kendra (Cara Mantella) have a plan to get two million dollars by stealing Star Wars items from a toy warehouse, he sees his opportunity to get rich quick and get the highest bid on the collectibles.

His best friend is Max (Enoch King), who is so much of a fan that he named his daughter Carrie after Carrie Fisher. Together, King and Tarver have an amusing dynamic, more so then they do alone. Tarver’s scenes alone with his mother yelling from offstage is funny at first, but it but the yelling by both gets old quickly.

While things don’t go as planned, the group finds help and resolution from a mob boss played by Rob Cleveland. This mob boss also has a passion for Star Wars. Cleveland brings an entertaining aspect to the role and the production. He is the villain, but his character is the most likeable of the bunch.

As written the characters of Carter (Brendle) and Kendra (Mantella) are not really likeable people. In the wrong hands, no one would care what happened to them, but it is to the credit of Brendle and Mantella that they make you somewhat care about the characters. Each one brings a sense of vulnerability to the role that anyone can relate with, especially with the sharply delivered lines that show Kendra’s lack of enthusiasm for Star Wars.

The story by Jospeh Zettelmaier has an interesting concept, but the script needs polishing. The attempts at humor often fall flat, but it’s the payoff that really falls short. Act One gets bogged down in a lot of details about the upcoming heist and Act Two deals with the fall out, but the action is missing. Ultimately what hurts the play is the fact that a heist story needs suspense, and this show tries to create it, but it doesn’t work.

While the plot is a bit thin, there’s a charm and nostalgia to the show, and that’s what will endear a lot of audience members to it. When the humor works, as it does in the often joked about fetish with Leia’s slave costume, the show is quite witty.

The technical crew of the show deserves much recognition. Thom Jenkins’ sound design lifts the show and blends into the story almost unnoticeably. Whether it is the flush or a toilet, the roar of a car or a cat just offstage, the sounds become a character all their own. Likewise the set by Tommy Cox creates a believable space that is accented by Ben Tilley’s lighting design.

A show for the “inner geek” in all of us, All Childish Things directed by Scott Warren plays at Aurora Theatre through October 27, 2013 as part of the Brand Signature Series. For tickets and more information, please visit out Now Onstage listing or the theater’s website. The show’s runtime is two hours with an intermission.

– A. Wesley