Color is a Beautiful Thing
What do you do when the “other” —something strange and foreign— comes into your world? Do you shun it? Resort to violence and/or teasing? Throw it out because it is illegal or not allowed? Or do you embrace it in good will and show acceptance and aloha? I had the pleasure of seeing the Honolulu Theatre for Youth’s blue currently playing at Tenney Theatre, and can attest to its successful age-appropriate exploration of these complex, current issues.
Back by popular demand, blue, written and directed by Annie Cusick, tells the story of Inky Blue (Junior Tesoro) and Sparkly Blue (Maile Holck), two very close friends who live happy little blue lives in their happy little blue world. Their universe and everything in it consists of every conceivable shade of blue: midnight, sky, indigo, etc. Everything is hunky-dory in the daily routine of their existence until… (gasp)… RED. The forbidden color comes into their presence, and at first, the two friends react as anyone might: with fear and scorn at the foreign element. While Sparkly is firm about getting rid of anything red —first cereal, then a sock— Inky seems a little curious, but even he takes a few whacks at the sock and also teases it when it’s thrown in the garbage.
But that night, he sneaks out to save “Red” (a character of its own by this point) from the trash, and gradually discovers the joys of experiencing something different. The next morning as Sparkly begins their normal routine, Inky hides Red to keep it safe. But little does he know, his actions have begun a fundamental breakdown of order in their blue little world, and as such, Sparkly is forced to banish her companion. Do they ever reconcile? What happens to Red the sock? Now that one color has found its way into their world, will we see others? Rest assured this TYA play for ages 3 and up has a bright and positive happy ending with enough hues to fill a Technicolor dreamcoat.
Tesoro and Holck are a joy to watch, especially since Cusick’s thoughtful script is understandably sparse in dialogue for the toddlers’ comprehension levels. The two actors portray very fun and accessible characters with exaggerated, expressive acting and even a little dancing, but are also able to deliver nuanced emotional dynamics when the characters’ relationship hits a rough patch. I sat in on a school show, and the Pre-K to K audience in attendance loved the play, and only had trouble discerning two things: when the characters draw themselves on a small, round blackboard (hard to see their drawings from the back rows), and any time the characters stand behind their clothes hanging on a clothesline and peek out where their heads would be to speak (hard to see their faces). The students did a little restless fidgeting near the end of the play as Sparkly played with Red, but were otherwise very engaged and entertained during the approx. 40-minute show.
Lights by Chesley Cannon and sound by Max Louie are appropriate and successful in adding to the story and highlighting changes in the blue world, but the MVP award has to go to set, costume, and props designer Karen Keifer for all the playful, practical, and eye-catching elements in her work.
Lastly, if you get the chance, see one of the weekday morning school shows where the audience is overwhelmingly children and chart their change in attitude towards Red the sock. At first they side with Sparkly and condemn that which is foreign, screaming, “NO!” when Inky tries to retrieve it. But as the story unfolds, they begin to see and cheer for the importance of tolerance and diversity. Color is a beautiful thing. Don’t fear the “other.” These lessons are essential and crucial, especially now.