Theater Review: Northwestern’s Theatre & Interpretation Center makes magic with ‘The Little Prince’

Avi Small

Theater Review: “The Little Prince”

When, in a storm of lights and sound, the curtain rose on the set of “The Little Prince,” there was an audible gasp from the audience. This production, playing at Northwestern’s Theatre and Interpretation Center, is filled with such moments. Each time a scene changes or a new character walks on stage, a viewer is likely to gasp simply because this new piece of the show is more amazing than the last. “The Little Prince” is notable for its excellent performances and incredible technical elements. Director David Catlin successfully recreates the magical world author Antoine de Saint-Exupery describes and illustrates in his landmark 1943 children’s book of the same name. In doing so, Catlin takes the audience on the fantastical journey described in de Saint-Exupery’s novel.

Those familiar with the plot of “The Little Prince” will find this production has kept closely to its source material. The Aviator (Ned Baker), the story’s narrator, lands his plane in a windstorm in the middle of an African desert. As he attempts to fix his plane’s broken engine, he encounters a boy – The Little Prince (Amelia Hefferon) – who is unlike anyone The Aviator has ever met. The Little Prince tells The Aviator his story: he has come from a faraway planet where he fell in love with a self-centered Rose (Royer Bockus). Running away from her and his home planet, The Prince travels across the universe and meets with residents of all the planets he encounters. He is confused by each of them and meets The Aviator after being counseled to travel to Earth. The Prince meets creatures on Earth as well, and his decisions on this planet shape the rest of the story.

The physical depictions of the prince and his travels are what make this play memorable. The watercolor illustrations from the book are portrayed onstage in incredible ways. The set is centered on a giant open book The Aviator illustrates throughout the course of the show as the characters literally jump from the pages. Light and sound design create an atmosphere in which sunset and nightfall are audible and interstellar travel looks simple. Cast members trained in certain circus techniques display their acrobatic skills, acting from trapezes and walking on giant spheres across the stage. The costuming makes each character look like they have come from within an illustration, from the obese businessman (Kelley Abell) to Bockus as the Rose.

De Saint-Exupery’s novel provides an astute commentary on growing up, and seeing this played out in person is nothing short of spectacular. As each set piece or character crosses the stage, it helps create the world of the book while emphasizing and elaborating on de Saint-Exupery’s profundities. In short, “The Little Prince” is simply magical.

-Avi Small