Tim McKiernan and Hayley Treider in 
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Photo Alan Simons.

Adapted from the novel by Mark Twain by Laura Eason
Directed by Jeremy B. Cohen

The reason we go to the theater is to forget about the world outside. When we sit in the darkness of the audience and the lights come up on stage, we are sucked into a world not like our own. At Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer provides plenty of escapism as we live vicariously through Tom and his numerous childhood adventures in the late 1800s’ American South.

Tom Sawyer’s world is a playful creation.  From the entrance, in which actors burst on stage in a joyous dance of childish energy, to the explosion of gold in the final scene, the production is a superb example of where modern theater is headed. With a wordsmith like Mark Twain as a source, as well as timeless characters, the staging itself is anything but ordinary. Eight actors play multiple roles, except for Tim McKiernan in the title role and Hayley Treider as Becky Thatcher. Simple and spare set pieces consisting of benches, chairs and windows dance in and out as often as the different characters. The lighting design by Robert M. Wierzel plays a vital part as well. Showcasing different ways to exhibit space without physically changing the stage, special lighting sequences show the eerie creepiness of Tom and Becky’s journey through the underground tunnels as well as the progress made by the children in the town when Tom cons them into whitewashing his Aunt Polly’s fence. Needless to say, there is always something fun to look at during this play.

Whether he is looking for treasure with his best friend Huckleberry Finn (Robbie Tann), or sweetly courting Becky Thatcher (Hayley Treider) with brass door knobs, Tim McKiernan’s performance as Sawyer evokes the spirit of boys everywhere. He is curious and wise as he comes of age after he witnesses a violent murder. He handles Twain’s Missouri dialect with care, avoiding the easy southern stereotype. When matched with Huck Finn, his ragamuffin best friend whose reputation precedes him, McKiernan’s Sawyer really stretches his legs. McKiernan and Nichols play off of each other nicely, vividly bringing the spirit of Twain to life in alternating moments of mischievous play and the high stress surrounding the story’s more dramatic events.

The fine folks over at Actors Theatre have pieced together an excellent production. They have adapted a classic piece of literature with a modern theatrical appeal. The result is a timeless and playful image of what childhood was and how we would like to remember it.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
October 4-29
Actors Theatre of Louisville
Pamela Brown Auditorium
Third & Main Streets
Louisville, KY 40202

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