Oh, to be young and on the run from the Corporation. That’s the plight of Moonshine, the thirteen-year-old heroine of Magic Maverick’s half term show for kids, Moonshine’s Entirely Necessary Adventure. When the unseen forces of the Corporation take over her forest, Moonshine (the plucky Rosa Brook) takes off on a quest to the moon, aided along the way by wolves, pirates, and mermaids. The story never makes much sense, but young audiences will be thoroughly entertained by some top-notch physical comedy, enchanting visuals, and a gifted all-female quartet of actors.
Director Chris Yarnell and lighting designer Martha Godfrey cleverly employ the use of hand-cut animations manipulated live on an overhead slide projector. This striking visual element serves as a refreshing reminder of the power of do-it-yourself theatrical magic.
Co-creators Molly Pharo and Helen White (who also composes the music and performs) provide a peppy script that is best (and most well-received by the young audience) when at its silliest. An extended secret pirate handshake sequence seems to land particularly well. The cast pulls off some meta-theatrical jokes about cast doublings, likely aimed at the parents in the room, with panache. After a quick costume change and a scene shift from forest to ship, White’s new character, Jo the magpie, declares, “I’ve been a pirate for many years now” to which Moonshine responds, “Really? You look just like the wolf.”
Jessica Dennis, Lucy Bishop, and Brook all have formidable voices (with Brook sometimes flipping into soprano lines approaching whistle-tones), yet the strongest vocals come from White, whose smokier, folksier tone sounds particularly polished and evocative. White’s original music includes some moments of bewitching harmonies and effective counterpoint while the full cast gets to show off their varied skills on keyboard, violin, guitar, and percussion (Yarnell stages an exciting scene in which Moonshine flees through the forest while nimbly playing a pair of drums that pop up in front of her as if they were rogue tree branches).
In addition to its overarching emphasis on female empowerment, the show also offers a well-meaning crash course on the gender binary. Pushed to identify as male or female, magpie Jo answers that “my gender is as fluid as the ocean” and condemns the habit of putting people into boxes before launching into a tangentially related, mermaid-led disco number, “Underwater Fabulous.” It’s a lesson that probably goes over the heads of many of the youngest audience members in its breeziness and buzzword-heavy delivery: kids may not follow the talk about gender not just being defined by “what’s between your legs.” (Male and female magpies look the same down there but point taken.) Presumably, though, many of the older audience members could still use the reminder.
Other thematic elements of the show receive even less subtle treatment. In an eye-roll-worthy moment, Pirate Pan “releases her emotions” in order to lighten the ship, and the play ultimately ends with the projection of a sweeping declaration to the audience: “You’re a hero.” What Moonshine’s Entirely Necessary Adventure lacks in nuanced morals, however, it more than makes up for in the enthusiasm and boisterousness of its multi-talented performers.
Moonshine’s Entirely Necessary Adventure played at Ovalhouse until February 14.