The reviews are in for CTC’s “Mercy Watson to the Rescue”

The Children’s Theatre Company appears to have a hankering for bacon.

After much success with its production of Babe the company is now presenting another play starring a pig. Mercy Watson to the Rescue is based on the children’s book by popular Minnesota author Kate DiCamillo.

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Photo by Dan Norman

Should you go? Two out of three critics say “yes!” Check out these excerpts of reviews to make up your own mind.

From John Olive at HowWasTheShow.com:

The cast has at this material with CTC’s patented over-the-top and howlingly funny bombastic blustering (Peter Brosius directs with his usual flair). As Mercy, Sara Richardson gives a winning performance, with her mincing walk and her Charlie Chaplin chapeau. Myself, I found her a touch automaton-ish, but then I’m not 6 years old. Every time Richardson made an entrance childish delight rippled through the auditorium. The kids adored her. She carries the show.

I would recommend Mercy Watson To The Rescue but with a big caveat: it’s for young children. Grown-ups are likely to become frustrated by the lack of meaningful character development and the extreme predictability of the story. So get hold of some kids and go. They’ll have a great time and you’ll have a great time watching them.

And be prepared to walk out of the theater with a powerful hankering for buttered toast.

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Photo by Dan Norman

From Lisa Brock at the Star Tribune:

There’s not much depth here (Mercy wants toast, Mercy gets toast, by hook or by crook), but plenty of twists, turns and pratfalls as an able ensemble brings these well-known characters to life. Gerald Drake and Mo Perry are entertainingly oblivious as Mr. and Mrs. Watson, a couple so contented with their lives and their “porcine wonder” that they simply ooze infectious cheer. Wendy Lehr brings the demeanor of a diminutive martinet to the role of killjoy neighbor Eugenia Lincoln, positively bristling with self-righteous annoyance as she terrorizes her sister, Baby (Elizabeth Griffith), and browbeaten cat (Jason Ballweber).

The real standouts in this piece, however, are Sara Richardson as Mercy the pig and Reed Sigmund as her arch-nemesis, animal-control officer Francine Poulet. Displaying an impressive range of facial expression and a body seemingly made of rubber, Richardson imbues Mercy with a wide-eyed insouciance and a convincing range of oinks, grunts and squeals in a masterfully comic performance. She’s well-matched by Sigmund’s over-the-top Francine, who alternately simpers and blusters her way through capturing her prey.

Photo by Dan Norman

From Dominic P. Papatola at the Pioneer Press:

In the books, Mercy is clever and just naughty enough to be winsome and lovable. But something is lost in director Peter Brosius’ translation to the stage. Richardson, who plays the eponymous swine, comes off more as a spoiled brat with overtones of ADHD than a guileless critter governed by her tummy.

The problem is one of breadth. CTC seldom costumes animal characters with acres of foam and fur, preferring to let the skill of the actors and the imagination of audiences create the character. And while Richardson is an able enough performer, there’s something – well – too human about her characterization of Mercy. Her performance – and some of the others that surround it – isn’t sufficiently larger-than-life to transport us into the fanciful world of the play.

This robs the show of momentum and makes the second act of the play – which is essentially one long chase scene – drag rather than glide along.

Mercy Watson to the Rescue runs through October 23 at the Children’s Theatre Company. You can also read a nice feature story on the show by Ed Huyck here.

Have you seen the show? If so, what did you think? Leave your review in the comments section.

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