By Collin Kelley
The Center for Puppetry Arts’ Park Cofield has taken his love for the classic film, The Red Balloon, and adapted it into a whimsical stage production for Atlanta’s French language company, Théâtre du Rêve. Running just an hour, it’s a perfect outing for children and adults.
The proto-New Wave film directed by Albert Lamorisse was released in 1956 and has since become a beloved right-of-passage in frequent screenings at schools and on PBS. The story is simple: A lonely Parisian boy, Pascal, is befriended by “le ballon rouge,” which seems to be alive. The balloon follows him wherever he goes, waits for Pascal outside his school and often gets the boy in trouble for its willful antics. The balloon becomes Pascal’s best friend, until a group of envious bullies steal it. Cue the waterworks.
Those who’ve seen the film will recall there is hardly any dialogue, so Cofield has filled in the blanks by creating musical numbers, with Christopher Mont providing live music and sounds, while the fantastic Park Krausen keeps the show moving as an omniscient narrator. Young Leandre Thivierge not only resembles Pascal from the film, but the French dialogue also rolls off his tongue. Did I mention that much of the dialogue is in French? Never fear, Krausen either translates it or the dialogue is simple enough that even non-speakers can understand it.
While the actors bring life to the show, the inanimate objects are equally important. Théâtre du Rêve has transformed 7 Stages small black box space into a beautifully detailed Parisian street scene, which transports the audience (which is basically observing the action from the street itself on intimate risers lined with cushions) into Pascal’s world. Oh, and the puppets! Over a stone wall, is a view of the distant French countryside, where the actors magically transform into puppets and cars and buses putter along. The tiny puppets give depth to the set, but also allow for action to take place – including the memorable ending – that could not be replicated with live actors.
The Red Balloon zips along, is sometimes a little chaotic, but children will love it and adults who fondly remember the film will marvel at just how much attention to detail Cofield and Théâtre du Rêve have brought to this production.
The Red Balloon continues through Feb. 27. Visit www.theatredureve.com for tickets, times and more information.