Aunt Nancy and the Doggie Tales | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Aunt Nancy and the Doggie Tales 

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Aunt Nancy and the Doggie Tales, Cornservatory. West African Anansi folktales save the day in Edward A. Thompson's kids' adventure. Meenah and Shelby are visiting world-traveling Aunt Nancy (a cheery Michelle R. Thompson-Hay) and odd, accident-prone Uncle Herbert (a comically blundering Kelvin Davis) when they discover that their dog, Jamal, is the last of a rare and expensive breed. It seems a mysterious stranger aims to dognap Jamal (played by Heather Meyer with such energetic cuteness and cleverness we can't blame him). But Aunt Nancy's fables of a frog and centipede, pig and glutton, and spider and wood ant teach the kids to take things one step at a time, work together, not get greedy, and tell the truth. Grounded by these solid morals, the family members and a cliche-spouting Coach (the hilarious Bryan Kelly) protect Jamal from the bad guy (played rather awkwardly by Roger Hand, though he did appear to scare some children in the crowd).

This 60-minute show features silliness, song and dance, and interactive fun (with a few lame jokes aimed at adults). It gets off to an enthusiastic start, but the script sometimes lacks focus, the actors' energy levels drop off precipitously, and the ending drags. The staging by Thompson-Hay and Danielle Y. Thompson is rough, and long blackouts suggest a need to simplify setups and costume changes. But overall this is still a charming show.

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