“Seedfolks,” a production of Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis, shows how Americans from different backgrounds organically become a community, by bonding over the primal impulse to grow something.
It starts with a 9-year-old girl and a handful of lima beans. It ends with a formerly trash-filled vacant lot in a poor Cleveland neighborhood that’s been transformed into more than a garden.
Paul Fleischman’s popular book “Seedfolks” is a thoughtful volume for young readers. It is about transformation — a common ingredient in so many green myths and fables. So is the charming one-woman stage adaptation created by the Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis.
“Seedfolks” also demonstrates how Americans from different cultural, racial and religious backgrounds can organically become a community, by bonding over the primal impulse to grow something nourishing from seemingly barren soil. As American immigration policies are under attack and bigotry is on the rise, it’s a timely metaphor.
Adapted from the book by Paul Fleischman. Through April 16, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle Center; tickets from $22 (206-441-3322 or sct.org).
The Minneapolis production of “Seedfolks,” adapted by Fleischman and winningly directed by Peter Brosius and presented here by Seattle Children’s Theatre, extends the metaphor by having one dexterous performer portray a dozen diverse characters.
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Garbed simply in an orange tunic and brown slacks, actress Sonja Parks represents the diverse neighborhood with ease. She seamlessly slips into role after role, accent after accent.
First up is that shyly determined Vietnamese child who digs into cold, packed dirt to plant beans in honor of her late father. She is soon observed from a window by an old Romanian woman who over decades has seen an influx of newcomers into the area — immigrants from Europe, Asia, Latin America and waves of African Americans, many of whom move away as soon as they’re upwardly mobile.
Recommended for children grades 5 and up, “Seedfolks” doesn’t soften the scourges of urban blight. There’s frank talk about violent crime and drugs and rats, about the indifference of local government and fears of venturing into the streets.
But these realities can (and arguably should) be faced by youngsters. And they are balanced by the humor, kindness and optimism that is well-harvested here in Parks’ warm and vivacious performance — which includes some pleasant audience give-and-take.
With the aid of Jorge Cousineau’s artful zoom-in/zoom-out slide projections of locales, we meet residents as they spot a swatch of green in a lot written off as a junk heap. The little P-Patch attracts a black teacher who lobbies City Hall for trash removal, a guy trying to impress his girlfriend by growing fresh tomatoes, a gregarious Jewish elder who becomes the garden’s de facto mayor, a Guatemalan boy who learns about planting from his great-uncle.
Their and others’ interactions are constructive but not sappy; the garden doesn’t bloom overnight, like Jack’s beanstalk. There are setbacks. And it takes time, cultivation and cooperation to grow this crop — as well as the fertilizer of mutual tolerance and camaraderie.