Horizon Youth youngsters tune into absurd comedy with “Magic Harmonica”

Princess Julia (Addie Smith), center, and the elephant (Brianna Dunham) are notamused by the jokes told by the jester ( Liam Rogel).


BG Independent News

The stage manager in Horizon Youth Theatre’s production of “The Magic Harmonica and Other Fanciful Tales” has problems keeping her cast in line.

They always want to veer away from the script. Officious, and controlling, the stage manager played Kaitlyn Valantine is not above yanking one narrator for another when they displease her.

The peddler (Emma Kate Holbrook) strikes a deal for a magic harmonica with a castle guard (Brianna Dunham ) while the other guard (Drew Thomas) naps.

What she can’t control is the way the playwright Janet Layberry also has a mind of her own. These four one-act plays within a play all employ the tropes of fairy tales, but do so in absurd and comic ways.

“The Magic Harmonica” is on stage at the Otsego High auditorium Thursday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5. Visit www.horizonyouththeatre.org/product/harmonica.

The play uses the troupe’s younger cohort of actors, ages 6 through 12, but there seem few concessions to age. The humor is at times intentionally juvenile, often involving grade school word play. Nobody delivers those jokes better than an actual grade schooler. Sometimes the humor seems pitched to the parents, as when Michelle (Calista Wilkins) in “The Woobly Fiasco” tells the enchanted prince carrying an outsized sword: “People haven’t used swords for ages, now they have … lawyers.” And then there’s the jester played by Liam Rogel who trades in absurdist non-sequiturs.

Each story has lessons here but they spare us the morals and never let messages get in the way of a good time.

The first of the four plays, “You Call That a Bedmonster?” is a typical fairy tale set up.

Arriving at the party in “But Hoo Is It For?”

Here we have a princess (Addie Smith) upset by a monster, except what troubles her is that this monster, Humphrey (Jonah Truman), has disappeared. She dispatches her guards (Cordelia Webber, Emily Coan, Calista Wilkins, and Paige Suelzer) to find him. They return with all manner of beasts but not Humphrey.

Though the animals sometimes stick around to entertain her, Princess Julia will not be pleased until Humphrey is back at home under her bed, grabbing her ankles.

The second play, “The Magic Harmonica,” takes place outside a castle and revolves around two bored guards (Brianna Dunham and Drew Thomas), who long for a break in their dull routine.

The harmonica given to one guard by a peddler (Emma Kate Holbrook) grants their wish, though, one sleeps through the whole adventure.

So we get a wizard (Nash Valantine) and sorcerer (Liam Rogel), a dragon, soldiers, and a cowardly general (Yelia Xu).

The dragon stays off stage, though – budget constraints, narrator Emma Montion and stage manager decide.

The last two plays are set in enchanted woods.

Woobly gathering

In “But Hoo Is It For?” is about “just a little girl looking for a party,” the narrator (Paige Suelzer) tells us. She persists despite continued frustrations.

“The Woobly Fiasco” is a gentle story of the Wooblies, helpful woodland creatures who are easier to control than the cast apparently. Kaitlyn Valantine’s stage manager asserts herself consistently to try to get the narrators not to insert themselves into the story they are telling.

The Wooblies take care of all the forest animals’ needs until they realize that there’s not enough room for everyone to continue living in the forest. This is resolved quietly and in everyone’s best interest with the animals discovering “there’s a little Woobly in all of us.”

With a cast of 30 – 11 of whom are in their first production according to Horizon board member Karen Walters – HYT seems intent on showing kids there’s also a little actor in all of us.

(See complete cast list here.)