Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Cat in the Hat: Wanting to Keep the Magic Alive

Do we need to understand everything? Why can’t children be allowed to wonder anymore?

I've an urge to write this in some sort of rhyme, but I haven’t the knack and I haven’t the time, I do want to say that the Cat in the Hat is an adorable show even if you don’t have a grandkid in tow. The kids were appropriately shocked and amazed, and the Cat was an acrobat who left us all dazed.

There’s a moment in The Cat in the Hat at the Arden Theater when the Cat (Doug Hara) stands precariously on a big yellow ball balancing, as in the book, a fish in a bowl on a rake and a book and a cup and a cake on his hat and a bowl full of milk and a kite in his tail and whatever else Dr. Seuss has listed in his popular children’s book.

It’s one thing to see a picture in a book, another to watch an actual person propel himself around the stage on what seemed to be a large exercise ball.  It was a truly remarkable feat, and we, myself along with all the children in the audience, held our collective breath waiting for something or everything to fall—while the young man next to me kept saying, “Oh, my,” and “My gosh”—until it all came crashing down—only not before our eyes. Just a lot of clattering and shuddering and shocked expressions.

And that was the fun of the piece. Part of going to the theater is the magic—not knowing quite how they’re doing what they do. It’s not the same as the movies, where we know that a bunch of experts worked with technology to create what are called “special effects.” The magic happens elsewhere in the movies. In the theater it all has to happen right in front of us leaving us wondering and amazed.

But what happens when that wonder is explained away? Does it diminish the effect and take away the magic when we know that it’s merely a trick?