No matter how old people become, they always love to act like children. There is something therapeutic in letting the worries of the teen and adult world drift away and simply having fun. Childhood has an age-old reputation as a time of innocence and happiness. However, this view is not entirely accurate. Children have fun, but they also make wrong decisions, learn difficult lessons, and go through pain just like adults. The Hundred Dresses, based on the book by Eleanor Estes, tells both of these sides of childhood. Maddie and Peggy are best friends living during the great depression. They are puzzled by an immigrant girl named Wanda. Peggy teases Wanda, and Maddie, though never joining in, does nothing to stop her. The consequences of the girls’ actions are more serious than they expected, and they must learn from their mistakes and try to do better next time.
Sarah Harlett, Emily Cedergreen, Troy Fischnaller, Tim Gouran and Betsey Schwartz in The Hundred Dresses at SCT. Photo by Chris Bennion.
Allison Narver directed this superb play. Betsy Schwartz plays Maddie and Sarah Harlett plays Peggy. Sharia Pierce plays Wanda. Seattle Children’s Theater does an excellent job of making this story come to life. The sets and costumes are simple and realistic, and the lighting effects are quite well done. To add to the mood, 1930s radio clips play during set changes. At various times throughout the play, the audience gets glimpses of what is happening in Maddie’s imagination with mini dream-sequences. These are portrayed as old-fashioned radio shows, and help to lighten up the play’s serious mood.
Yes, the play is serious. Its message of tolerance is a heavy one, both for the characters and the audience. They learn that in life, it is not easy to realize you were wrong, but it is vital. Though the moral is grave, it is woven so skillfully through the children’s crisp autumn schooldays that the audience accepts it as simply another part of life. Rather than showing an ideal but unrealistic chain of events, The Hundred Dresses portrays the err-and-repent way that life usually happens. Thus, the audience can empathize with the characters rather than feel preached at.
The characters truly make the play remarkable. The cast members do an incredible job of acting like children; they make it look effortless. Each of them has their own unique personality, so the audience can always identify with someone. They are familiar characters—the leader, the pleasing friend, the silly one—and the audience members feel as though they have met them all before, or even as if they are one of them. Everyone has been in Maddie’s situation. Everyone has faced peer pressure. These characters tell us that we, like them, can make the right choice next time.
The Hundred Dresses is a children’s story. It is simple, clear, and comforting. The moral is an old one. Do not hurt other people’s feelings. Put yourself in their shoes. Find out the whole story before you judge. But, it is not merely a children’s story. Like a proverb that has lasted a thousand years, its message has new meaning every time you hear it. It is entertaining, colorful, and fun, but it is also wise and poignant. No matter what age you are, you can learn from The Hundred Dresses.
March 2nd, 2008
The Hundred Dresses
Seattle Children's Theatre
Through April 6th
More info and show times: http://www.sct.org/
SCT's Ticket Office: 206-441-3322
Ticket Office Hours: Friday 9 a.m. - show time, Saturday 10 a.m. - show time, Sunday noon - show time
Seattle Children's Theatre is located at the West entrance to Seattle Center, just north of Pacific Science Center and West of the Space Needle. It is served by buses 1, 13, 15, 18, 19, 24 and 33. For bus times: tripplanner.metrokc.gov
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