Frindle | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Frindle 

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Frindle, Griffin Theatre Company. William Massolia's adaptation of Andrew Clements's award-winning children's book details the colossal ramifications of a fifth-grader's prank. In an attempt to challenge his austere spelling teacher's authority, young Nicholas Allen renames his pen a "frindle." But both Nick and wizened grammarian Mrs. Granger are too obstinate to concede defeat, and their battle of wills is quickly propelled onto the nightly news and the covers of major magazines. Nick becomes a minor celebrity as his word is adopted into the lexicon, but he's too busy spending his afternoons in detention to savor his fame. More than just a practical explanation of etymology, Frindle offers a lesson in the power of creativity and individual thought.

Except for the few odd spots where the children sound like they have high school vocabularies (Nick describes his scheme as "scathingly brilliant"), Massolia's adaptation demonstrates a true ear for dialogue. Unfortunately, the script feels fragmented. There aren't enough set pieces or drastic changes in location to justify the play's dozens of blackouts. Richard Barletta's direction is even more perplexing: despite the abundance of space center stage, he's blocked many of the scenes in the corners, some beyond the sight lines. Frindle captures the imagination, but holding our attention is another matter entirely. Even at only an hour, this production may leave children squirming. --Nick Green

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