ARIEL Theatrical’s ‘Tom Sawyer’ a fun, inspiring production

By JUDY HIGGERSON
Critics Circlemontereyherald.com
Posted:   08/15/2012 04:02:02 PM PDT
August 16, 2012 3:42 PM
GMTUpdated:   08/16/2012 08:42:11 AM PDT

Tom Sawyer (Andrew Liddle),
left, and Huck Finn (Alex Gomez) make big plans while fishing on the Mississippi
River in ARIEL Theatrical’s production of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,”
playing through Aug. 25 in Salinas.

I read once where Mark Twain wrote that travelwas “fatal to prejudice,
bigotry and narrow-mindness.” After seeing my first Ariel production, “The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” directed by Gail Higginbotham, I believe that the
word “theater” should be substituted in that Twainism.

Higginbotham has shown the community with this production how the entire cast  and community comes together to join forces in a production that reflects the mission statement of the ARIEL Theatrical — seeking to use the art and
discipline of the theater to inspire young people.

The production helps young audience members to understand that personal
integrity, respect for others and an acceptance of responsibility for choices
made are the keys to building a principled and productive life.

The examples are displayed by the adventures of Tom (Andrew Liddle): playing
hooky from school, the consequences set forth by Aunt Polly, his punishment by
whitewashing the fence.

Or the extreme example of standing up in court to testify in front of the
town stating that he had indeed observed a murder in the graveyard, knowing that he had no business being in the graveyard at night, and accepting the unknown consequences that might arise from his testimony.

Like all young people, the temptation to “go off track, not follow the rules”
was displayed when Tom and Becky (played by Naomi Oppenheim) deviated from the outing to visit the caves and become lost from the group for several days, leaving the town to search and worry about their survival.

What a wonderful choice of theater to reflect all of the ARIEL mission
statement: integrity, respect, acceptance of responsibility for choices.

The use of the stage and the props were creative and fun. Having the cast run
offstage toward the audience gave it the opportunity to see all the smiling
faces of the cast.

This reinforced the commitment of not just the young people, but the adults
who have committed themselves to such a positive experience working with these dedicated young people, both on stage or those behind the scenes.

The song “Ain’t Life Good” wasn’t justa song in which the audience joined the
actors on stage, but a resonating theme throughout the production.

It was a beautiful day for all 44 cast members (14 of whom had never been on
stage before, captivating the audience with their insightful interpretation of
the adventures of a hooky-playing, easy-going Tom Sawyer and his sidekick Huck Finn (Alex Gomez).

This production earns a thumbs- up from this reviewer. GO!

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