James and the Giant Peach | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

James and the Giant Peach 

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James and the Giant Peach, Inequity Theatrical Collaboration, at the Cornservatory. Richard R. George's adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's book for this late-night, adult-oriented show dumbs down the original's wicked humor into silly sexually tinged camp. Thrown in are a few songs by Joseph Stearns.

In George's version, directed by Lewis Lain Jr., a group of New York misfits remember their glory days by putting on a play about their adventures in a giant peach. Dahl's story is about James's courage and resourcefulness in the face of fantastic adversity--to begin with, his parents are killed by a rhinoceros. But here James (Bucky Cross) is almost invisible; instead George focuses on the good-natured eccentrics (mostly bugs) around him. The wise grasshopper (Scott Harris) is a pot-smoking hippie. And James's greedy, vicious, doomed aunts have been turned into prostitutes (a sardonic Genevieve Pritchard and amusing Adam Lenehan, who plays Aunt Spiker as if she were a high Drew Barrymore).

George's adaptation often feels like an excuse for puns and double entendres--but the production looks beautiful. Nancy Freeman's wondrous storybook sets could have been created by Dahl himself. Joan Pritchard's costumes are inventive, especially a centipede covered in socks and seagull masks that have moving wings. And Christina Harris's cheerful choreography breaks up what could otherwise have been a long hour.

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