My Father's Dragon | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

My Father's Dragon 

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My Father's Dragon, Lifeline Theatre. Ruth Stiles Gannett's Newbery-winning 1948 story, about precocious adventurer Elmer Elevator's epic quest to rescue a beleaguered dragon, was my father's favorite book as a child--and mine too. My father appreciated Gannett's critique of the dangers of isolationism in post-World War II America, while I simply marveled at her ability to tell a story. But whatever Gannett's intentions were, the book's observations on loyalty and courage transcend conventional morality.

Aside from some updated cultural references, James Sie's adaptation (he's also adapted the children's classics Bunnicula and A Cricket in Times Square for Lifeline) more or less preserves My Father's Dragon in its original form. Occasionally the script gets bogged down in needless exposition and wordiness, but Lifeline does a good job of bringing out the story's visual aspects. Sandy Snyder's staging is fast paced and furious, and Alan Donahue's scenic design--which eventually transforms a child's bedroom into the dense, animal-ridden jungle of Wild Island--makes clever use of the theater's tall, deep space. The cast--led by Brad David Reed as smarty-pants narrator Ernie and Warren Jackson as wide-eyed Elmer--is uniformly excellent. But that's no surprise: Lifeline's KidSeries has a long track record of stimulating, thought-provoking productions. --Nick Green


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