No Flying in the House | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

No Flying in the House 

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No Flying in the House, Lifeline Theatre.

Though Mrs. Vancourt prefers her expensive windup toys, initially she has no objection to adopting a stray dog, nor does her housekeeper Miss Peach--especially a talking dog only three inches long. But this talented canine, Gloria, also claims to be the guardian of Annabel, a child given to disrupting the Vancourt household by flying about like a mischievous moth. Who is this extraordinary waif? Where are her parents, whom Gloria insists will return one day? Does Annabel have anything to do with Mrs. Vancourt's long-lost runaway son? And what part does Belinda, a sinister emerald-eyed cat, play in this mystery?

Betty Brock's award-winning children's book No Flying in the House requires an abundance of exposition to be compressed into a mere hour, but Steve Totland's deft adaptation and Shole Milos's carefully paced direction keep the action engaging and coherent. Designers Rob Martin, Claudia Boddy, Ken Puttbach, and William Massolia have created a music-box milieu with enough ingenious special effects to offset the script's wordiness. And Nicole Mischler's Annabel, Candace Johnson's Miss Peach, and Clare Nolan's Mrs. Vancourt are played with just the right amount of Victorian whimsy. But puppeteers Mary Kathryn Bessinger and John Norris are the ones who provide the real charm and magic, giving Gloria and Belinda so much personality and expressiveness that a young audience member was afterward heard to ask Bessinger, "How do you turn into Gloria?" Chalk up another success for Lifeline's KidSeries, now in its 13th season.

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