Animals are the co-stars of Write Out Loud production
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO — Two dogs, two cats, a mouse, a wolf, and a horse co-starred Monday evening, June 11, in Animals I Have Known, a production by Write Out Loud which also co-starred four humans, who read the animal tales at the Theatre at Old Town.
With red light bathing the stage on which a single music stand held their scripts, David Fenner, his aunt Veronica Murphy, her partner Walter Ritter and their colleague Tim West successively read stories and sketches by Saki (H.H. Monroe), Edward Albee, Algernon Blackwood and Rose Fyleman. Later Murphy, Fenner and West added pieces by N. Margaret Campbell, F.M. Manus and Brooks Atkinsion to the delightful literary menagerie.
It was similar to experiencing the heyday of radio, without having to twist the dials, or participating in a 19th century community get-together when people gathered to be entertained by each other, rather than by some electronic device. The four readers brought their own styles, mannerisms, and pacing to the reading, and the result was a warm, mostly nostalgic, occasionally suspenseful evening in which animals were the sources of wonderment, humor and occasional poignancy. It was an evening that both I and my 11-year-old grandson, Shor, enjoyed.
The Mouse by Saki describes the predicament of a rather proper gentleman sitting in the car of a train which has no other occupant but a woman. He suddenly feels a mouse runs up his shirt, and is baffled how to deal with this problem in a manner befitting his dignity. Fenner, who read while pantomiming the actions of a man with a rodent up his sleeve, was a sheer delight.
Harry Sighing by Edward Albee described the contentment of a big Irish wolfhound stretched out on the home turf. Cleo For Short was drama critic Brooks Atkinson’s eulogy for his German Shepherd Cleo (short for Cleopatra) who belonged in the country, but made friends for herself and some for Atkinson wherever they would go in New York City, particularly at the docks along the Hudson River.
West provided the voice for a Persian cat, who narrates a creation story about God’s most perfect creation — a Persian cat, of course– and Murphy showed herself just as partial to cats as to dogs by following up her tale about Harry the Irish wolfhound with a reading of N. Margaret Campbell’s The Undoing of Morning Glory Adolphis. The latter is a story how a cat, which could successfully hunt nearly anything and which could scare off dogs several times its size, suddenly met in an upstart cat named Silverpaws, a rival for the family affections.
Running Wolf, easily the longest story of the evening, was presented by Walter Ritter. The suspenseful tale by Algernon Blackwood tells of a hotel clerk who goes camping at Medicine Lake in the Canadian Wilderness, and against all advice, camps on the side of the lake that is home to a remarkable timber wolf, which watches and watches him, until the clerk feels he must learn more about this creature.
Fenner returned to the stage to tell F.M. Manus’s Real Ponies Don’t Go Oink, a humorous story of a boy who wanted a pony–or even better a horse — and what happened after his friend finally got one.
The format of reading stories is simple, but keeping the audience alert and hanging on every word of three stories before intermission and four afterwards requires a love and an aptitude for the spoken word, which society seems in danger of losing every time someone Tweets, or abbreviates on Facebook.
The two-evening production has its final performance at 7 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, June 12, at the Carlsbad City Library, 1775 Dove Lane, Carlsbad. Last night’s and tonight’s performances drew the sponsorship of animal lovers Richard and Susan Platt.
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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