Now author Laura Eason, director Jeremy Cohen and the wizards of tech at the Rep have combined their considerable talents to create a magical, joyful, energetic adaptation of Mark Twain's 1876 novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
The production is aimed at young theater-goers so it's only about an hour and a half in length, but it doesn't sacrifice content for brevity and I think those of us who have accompanied Tom and Huck on their rollicking explorations of rural Missouri will find old friends, and those of us who are new to the charms of these paragons of boyhood will be delighted to meet them and their cohorts.
One adventure flows into another, all of them connected by Tom, played by Tim McKiernan and Huck played by Robbie Tann, witnessing the graveyard murder of Doc Robinson, played by Nate Trinude.
Injun Joe, played with hulking menace by Michael D. Nichols, settles a blood debt with Doc and then frames the hapless Muff Potter played by Joseph Adams for the murder.
Tom and Huck swear a blood oath never ever ever to tell a soul what they've seen and thus begins a battle of conscious versus loyalty for Tom, especially when Muff is sentenced to hang.
A nightmare scene in which Tom watches Injun Joe kill his family and friends, and the roamings of a lost Tom and Becky in a spooky cave, complete with a lurking Injun Joe, are creative and effective but not lurid enough to really frighten young children.
Tom's elderly, prim Aunt Polly is played by Nance Williamson, who seems a bit too young and pretty for the role in my estimation, although her performance was flawless. Hayley Trieder is lovely and graceful as Becky Thatcher, Tom's one true love, and Justin Fuller plays Joe Harper with alacrity.
It was a wonderful, charming, delightful production.
So why didn't I like it more than I did? Well, it was a bit disconcerting for me to see a fully developed Becky, a very tall, mature Tom, and a Huck whose voice was rich and deep. Try as they might they were always adults playing children and I couldn't suspend my reality enough to fully enjoy the production; having said that, I would not hesitate to recommend the play. It's a romp, a delight and a welcomed rediscovery of our beloved Tom and Huck. All in all, I think Mr. Clements would be pleased.