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Theater Review: It's beginning to look a lot like solstice

Olympia Family Theater stages fabulous alternative to typical winter plays

Sally the Slug finds help in her journey to bring the sun back early. Photo credit: Dinea de Photo

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With the days getting increasingly shorter, the anticipation for the longest night of the year and the steady and glorious return of the sun will soon culminate in the winter solstice. Some will throw parties, others will sleep and people who don't experience a 4 p.m. (or earlier) sunset may likely ignore it altogether. What shouldn't be ignored is the Olympia Family Theater's presentation of How the Slug Stole Solstice (HtSSS) by Drue Robinson. Recommended ages 5 and older, it is correctly billed as "a holiday show for the whole family." With singing, dancing and an adorable (mostly) young cast, OFT presents a tale about Sally the Slug who is afraid of the dark and is on a mission to bring the sun back. Part science education and all entertainment, HtSSS is a sweet and funny winter play. Some of the things the audience learns are where the sun goes on the winter solstice, the dark really isn't all that scary, and how an orange, a stick, and a lantern make a great model of the earth and the sun when explaining the rotation of the earth and the length of sunlight in a day.

There was a range of acting abilities and several stood out brilliantly. Karli Kooi (Cricket) was possibly the most enjoyable to watch. Her delivery of lines and gestures seemed effortless and as if she were truly living those moments. Lucas Bowers (Boo) had great inflection and timing as Cricket's little brother and along with Lynn Couch (Grandpa Joe) elicited several of the bigger laughs from the audience. Reese Sigman (Ladybug) had a wonderful voice and an ease about her that was delightful to watch. Meredith Morgan (Sally the Slug) made banana slugs seem adorable and maybe just misunderstood instead of the garden nemeses they are. Also? Kids beat boxing is a pretty awesome thing.

The set was simple yet beautiful. OFT used their space to perfection with a multi-level set that ensured none of the actors got lost behind anyone else. Scenic designer Steve Bylsma designed a lovely star studded and moon lit forest for the tale to unfold. The props and costumes were spot on with the highlight being the artificial flame fake campfire, which caused one of the young audience members to delightedly whisper, "real fire!" before being shushed. Director Kate Arvin and stage manager Emmaline Ryle do a fantastic job corralling their young actors which is no easy task. And while many have argued against the use of children in plays, these young thespians are fun to watch.

Olympia Family Theater's production is a fabulous alternative to the typical winter plays and whether you are staunchly secular or deeply religious, How the Slug Stole Solstice is an appropriate and light-hearted way to get excited about winter. And again, there are kids beat boxing.

HOW THE SLUG STOLE SOLSTICE, 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through Dec. 21, Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, $13-$19, 360.570.1638

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