Bongo Larry and Two Bad Bears | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Bongo Larry and Two Bad Bears 

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BONGO LARRY AND TWO BAD BEARS, Lifeline Theatre. Alan Donahue adapted this 50-minute play from two children's books by Daniel Pinkwater: Bongo Larry, about a polar bear musician, and Irving and Muktuk: Two Bad Bears, about two polar bears who scam blueberry muffins from unsuspecting humans using "stealth and subterfuge." The two stories are smashed together using Twilight Zone-esque time-travel bits, and Paul Gilvary has added songs.

But director Shole Milos is unable to make it all work: the beat generation dialogue is clumsily delivered, there's more talk than action, and the ensemble give lackluster performances. Kids may dig the live songs and new vocabulary, but the show's positive message--that everyone is cool in some way--has little impact by the time the point gets made. For one thing, early on the writers emphasize the distinction between "cool" and "square," putting to music the idea that "you need to know if you're in or out...shades of gray get in the way." So not only is the show dull, it effectively encourages kids to discriminate on the basis of what's cool and what's not.

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