Aunt Nancy and a Day at the Carnival | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Aunt Nancy and a Day at the Carnival 

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AUNT NANCY AND A DAY AT THE CARNIVAL, Corn Productions, at the Cornservatory. Big touring children's shows with costumed adults impersonating cartoon characters remind me of the ruthlessly efficient way the Nazis whipped crowds into mindless obedience. I'm sure that if Dora the Explorer asked my three-year-old, she'd willingly invade the Sudetenland.

I prefer smaller, more modest children's shows, like this unpretentious romp by Michelle R. Thompson-Hay and Danielle Y. Thompson-Davis. The presentation may be rougher, the acting less polished, the story lighter--this one's about a trip to the carnival that goes awry. But you can't beat the implicit messages: that a performance doesn't have to be perfect to be entertaining, and that not everything in life ties into a TV series, hit movie, or collection of action figures. These actors know how to treat kids like human beings, inviting them onstage for a 20-minute preshow (with their parents) that involves face painting and balloon animals yet never making big eyes or broad gestures or resorting to other forms of fakery.

Thompson-Hay and Kelvin Davis are winning as Aunt Nancy and Uncle Herbert. And Matthew Rudy makes a great villain--Finneas K. Tingle, a twisted ringmaster determined to rid the world of clowns. Unfortunately the show's starting time, 2 PM, puts it out of reach of kids who take an afternoon nap.

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