By Manning Harris
The most completely charming, magical hour of theatre in the city is currently on view at Théatre du Rêve’s staging of the 1956 short French film “The Red Balloon,” being performed at 7 Stages Backstage Theatre through February 12.
The theatre is Atlanta’s French speaking troupe, but if you don’t speak the language, not to worry: The show is performed half in English, and the French lines are cleverly restated in English, so the play is completely audience-friendly.
It is more than that. It is adapted from Albert Lamorisse’s Academy Award winning film (an Oscar for best original screenplay, winning over Fellini’s “La Strada”!); Atlanta Intown’s Editor Collin Kelly recently reported that the theatre sold out this production last year and is now bringing it back by popular demand. I for one am very glad indeed.
Being a deprived child, I have never seen the film (a condition I must rectify post-haste). It’s the story of Pascal (Thomas Shoup), a small boy living in Paris who is unexpectedly, magically befriended by a sentient red balloon, which begins to follow Pascal through the streets, to his school (where it causes quite a commotion), and to his home. His mother (Park Krausen), who seems preternaturally calm and understanding (the way moms can sometimes be), is supportive of her son’s unusual friendship, yet wary of possible repercussions in the outside world.
Envious friends; suspicious passers-by; bullies—all these forces are lurking and must be dealt with. At one point Pascal meets the Girl with the Blue Balloon (Nadia Crawlle), who would seem to be an ally. The theatre’s press release reliably reports that the show features “animation, actors, puppets, music, and a children’s ensemble of young Atlanta talent.”
But neither I nor the press release can convey the ineffable quality of “The Red Balloon.” It must be experienced. Many talented people have created this shimmering hour of childlike, quite metaphysical theatre. Park Cofield is the adapter and director; he says “this production is about the uniqueness in us all and the joy that comes from letting the imagination wander and explore.” Park Krausen, artistic director and actress, is a lovely presence onstage and off. Chris Mont is the composer.
Cast members include Christof Veillon, Seth Davis (also he makes music!), Jeffrey C. Zwartjes, Alicia V. Wilson, Flora McGirt, Charles Cardot, Victor Magaud, Olive Weeks, Ellie Guettler, and Louis Cardot. There’s another children’s ensemble that performs on alternating shows.
“The Red Balloon” is performed in an intimate little theatre that is perfect for this show. Many of the remaining performances are sold out, but not all. As mentioned, the show runs about one hour; it’s an hour you won’t soon forget.
For tickets and information, visit www.theatredureve.com.