A review of “Brooklyn Bridge” at Seattle Children’s Theatre, which, writes reviewer Dusty Somers, is one of those rare children’s shows that doesn’t let adult characters talk down to the grade-school heroine.
“Brooklyn Bridge” is the rare piece of children’s entertainment in which the adult characters don’t talk down to the kid protagonist. Melissa James Gibson’s play — a warm, melancholy and gently surreal depiction of community — doesn’t condescend to its audience either, making it an ideal piece of theater for adults and older kids to enjoy together.
A coproduction of Seattle Children’s Theatre and the University of Washington School of Drama, “Brooklyn Bridge” follows the low-key adventures of 10-year-old Sasha (Analiese Emerson Guettinger), whose report on the bridge is due tomorrow — and she hasn’t written a word yet.
A latchkey kid, Sasha is used to spending evenings alone in her third-floor Brooklyn apartment while her mother cleans offices late into the night. She’s supposed to stay put once she gets home from school, but she can’t find a pen to write her report with, necessitating a journey into the halls of her building. Matthew Smucker’s terrific set is equal parts magical and menacing, an off-kilter assemblage of canted hallways and oddly placed apartment doors.
By Melissa James Gibson. Through March 20, Seattle Children’s Theatre, 201 Thomas St., Seattle; $22-$40 (206-441-3322 or sct.org).
Sasha’s efforts to borrow a pen from one of her neighbors are continually thwarted, but she does succeed at discovering the vast range of backgrounds and experiences underneath her roof. Next door is Sam (a winningly garrulous Rudy Roushdi), a dental student and taxi driver who owns a sneaky, anxiety-ridden cat, while down the hall is John (David Pichette, cranking up the avuncular charm), an elderly history buff and longtime building resident.
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Some neighbors are normal (Claire Fort’s compassionate Talidia) while others are wacky (Rebekah Patti’s heavy-footed, constantly late Trudi, who seems imported from a Louis Sachar book), but every interaction offers a more revealing peek into Sasha’s conflicted emotional state.
The daughter of a Russian immigrant, Sasha feels like she’s stuck in the middle of two cultures, and her mom’s attempts to shield her from a long-absent father have also left her feeling adrift, her identity nebulous.
The same goes for her ideas. Sasha eventually admits she’s written her entire paper in her head; she just can’t seem to get the words down on paper. Guettinger’s performance captures these contradictions in strikingly relatable fashion, her witty poise alternating with frustrated reticence.
Gibson’s affirmation of the importance of building communal bonds is lovely, though its casually mentioned time frame (just a few months before 9/11) colors it with an unavoidably elegiac tone. Director Rita Giomi establishes a nice balance; silly antics coexist with Sasha’s nagging doubts. Unlike lesser kid-focused stories, this is a play that understands both are fundamental to growing up.