The Cay News and Reviews
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The Cay: Review
by Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago
February 14, 2008
Part adventure story, part racism lesson, The Cay (based on Taylor’s 1969 children’s novel) is told from 11-year-old Phillip’s point of view. Phillip is an American living with his parents on the island of Curaçao in 1942, until worries about the war prompt his mother to return with him to the U.S. Their ship is hit by a German torpedo, and Phillip wakes up to find himself on a raft with the ship cook’s cat and an old black sailor named Timothy. Phillip’s head injury soon causes him to lose his sight; though he’s been taught by his mother to stay away from black people, he has no choice but to trust caring, patient Timothy to keep him alive.
Cornelison’s adaptation has some clunky elements; Phillip’s mother’s views are so lightly touched upon that Phillip’s first racist outburst comes as a shock, and Taylor’s deftly made point about a kid who thinks war is cool—until he experiences its reality—is excised completely. But Delheimer’s gorgeous, challenging production smooths over the wrinkles. Two dancers, Meghan Brown and Allisa-Zee Hartmann, serve as koken (the “invisible” prop handlers native to Japanese theater), their movements providing everything from flying fish to a hurricane. The effects should dazzle third- to sixth-graders (around the lead character’s age); the storytelling is sophisticated enough for parents to enjoy, too. Even couched in a survival story, Taylor’s message comes through loud and clear, and it’s one worth talking about on the ride home.
The Cay: Review
by Tom Williams, Chicagocritic.com
January 30, 2008
Adventure Stage Chicago at Vittum Theatre offers a fine lesson in survival, tolerance and friendship that finds an elder West Indies Black man teaching a young precocious white 12 year old boy how to live with a handicap: blindness.
Zach Laliberte (Phillip), the teen and Eugene Parker (Timothy) plays the 70 year old black Islander. Both have a fine stage chemistry that the children in the audience can easily relate. Set in 1942 in the West Indies during World War II when Nazi submarines were attacking ships headed to England, Phillip and his mother travel by ship from the Dutch West Indies back to Miami. Phillip ends up on a raft with Timothy in the Atlantic Ocean.
Timothy starts Phillip’s survival lessons by rationing their fresh water supply as the two (with a cat) drift with the ocean current. They landed on an isolated cay surrounded by coral and sharks. Phillip’s head injury rendered him blind during his months with Timothy. We witness Phillip’s initial racism that comes from his parents who were raised in Virginia. The boy eventually bonds with the even tempered senior whose survival skills allow the ship wrecked folks to live on a desolate cay.
I liked this morality play as it effectively teaches children lessons in survival, friendship and tolerance. It is a tribute to the human spirit as we see Phillip overcome his blindness. He eventually helps the ailing Timothy survive and the two outlast a hurricane. Meghan Brown and Allisa-Zee Hartmann are the swift dancers and kokens that underscore the story on Courtney O’Neill’s set with Mikhail Fiksel’s sound and original music.
The kids in the audience were totally enamored with the action. Adventure Stage Chicago has mounted another worthy children’s production.