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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 26, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 17
Warts and all - Book-It's Huck Finn gives you the unvarnished Twain
Arts & Entertainment
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Warts and all - Book-It's Huck Finn gives you the unvarnished Twain

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN: UNCENSORED
BOOK-IT REPERTORY THEATRE
Through May 12


Young Christopher Morson is hardly off-stage for even a few seconds in the new Book-It Repertory Theatre adaptation of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Uncensored. He leaps, bounds, cartwheels, and sneaks around stage in a complete embodiment of the young protagonist of Mark Twain's stories. Along with a great performance by Geoffery Simmons as runaway slave Jim, Morson delivers the goods.

The story of Huck Finn has been told as a popular musical, Big River, recently performed by Village Theatre in Issaquah. If you've seen the musical, you've seen much of what is contained in the Book-It version of the story.

Huck Finn is a young teen who is the only child of a drunkard who beats him and then abandons him until he hears Huck has come into money. Then he abducts him and terrorizes him, causing Huck to sneak away and fake his death. Huck hides out on a small island near his town and finds Jim, a runaway slave who hopes to get to a slavery-free state. Instead, as they jump on a raft on the wide Mississippi River, they drift south into a series of dangers.

NO SUGAR-COATING
The 'uncensored' part of this title is due to an unfettered use of the n-word, which is liberally peppered throughout Twain's book, reflecting the vernacular of the time. (A number of high schools across the country have begun using an expurgated version that changes it to 'slave' in an effort to somehow erase the casual nature of racism in our long history of people-owning.)

Book-It's adaptors, director Jane Jones and Judd Parkin, have deliberately kept the word in their adaptation and kept it in casual dialogue, tossing it off as any person would have, including the slaves themselves, at that time. It is meant to be simultaneously shocking and mundane. It is also a way to reflect on who we have become and why even a celebrated writer such as Twain would write in that way.

The main point of the story is that Huck begins to realize who his friend is, and who cares about him, and that the attitudes of the 'abolitionists' might be right after all. Huck begins to do that when he makes up his mind to be evil, as he puts it, not caring what further trouble he gets into.

SOLID SUPPORT
The Book-It production uses a cadre of choral performers in a different presentation. Multiple people speak a narration at once, sometimes with a rhythmic sing-song effect. Humorous moments are played out at times using humans as props (such as demonstrating how Huck shoots a pig and uses its blood to fake his own death before escaping), giving some lighter-hearted opportunities in the adventures of the play. It sometimes works well and sometimes is a distraction as one wonders why they're doing it. It's a choice, neither always a good one nor a bad one.

Russell Hodgkinson and Peter Jacobs excel as the diabolical King and Duke, especially in their crude reconstruction of Shakespeare, and Hodgkinson is suitably creepy as Huck's father. Gin Hammond demonstrates her chameleon-like skills as Huck's caretaker, Widow Douglas, and part of the chorus.

Musicians led by the talented Theresa Holmes perform original music by Dan Wheetman that lends an authentic feel to the play. Lighting is key for this production and Andrew D. Smith does a great job with various river locales and every time of day or night.

This production is suitable for younger children, though some preparation for the language might be appropriate. For more information (including a calendar of related special events), go to www.book-it.org or call (206) 216-0833.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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