Last night my five-year old assistant and I decided to check out the Swarthmore Players Club’s take on our favorite chapter book, Bunnicula, directed by Jim Fryer with musical director Dolores Ciavola.
The Players Club of Swarthmore offered its first performance in 1911 – a group of men put on a fundraiser for the Women’s Club and it was so successful that a committee was formed to create a permanent troupe! Performances were held annually in the Women’s Club edifice on Park Avenue in Swarthmore Borough until 1935 when the Fairview Road land was purchased for the current theatre building. Over the next few years the land was purchased to buy the area that is now the handy parking lot! After 102 years the theatre now offers a full season of 7 shows as well as performances for children, classes, and more!
The play chronicles a cat and dog team’s attempts to solve a spooky mystery about their newest family member, a rabbit with very odd eating habits. If you’ve read James & Deborah Howe’s Bunnicula series, you probably have a picture in your mind of good old Harold the dog and imaginative Chester, his feline friend and their family. Strath Haven High School 10th grader J.J. Vavrik’s Harold is as optimistic and floppy as the novel indicates and really has a canine sensibility that makes him likable. Danny Donnelly’s gentle puppetry brought Bunnicula to life! Costumed like Madonna in her Material Girl phase, Aimee Theresa’s bad girl sensuality is in every way unlike the bookishly masculine Chester of my imagination. However, she is lovely and languid and it was impossible not to watch her curl on the Monroe’s Chesterfield chair and interact with Barbara Bibby’s bubbly Mrs. Monroe with unmistakably feline abandon and disdain! Theresa’s zingers were flawlessly delivered and many of them left my little guy howling with laughter. She really played beautifully with Vavrik and her pacing and strength as a singer were impressive! She wasn’t your grandmother’s Chester, but I liked her very much!
The children, played by Anthony Flamminio (Toby) and Talia Kaplan (Penny) brought plenty of energy to the piece. I appreciated big sister Penny being substituted for big brother Pete, though I would NEVER believe that beautifully costumed Talia’s socks hadn’t been changed in a week! Barbara Bibby and Al Them were affable and appropriately clueless as Mr. and Mrs. Monroe.
Our evening ended on a high note – all children in attendance were invited to the lobby for cookies and lemonade and a chance to meet the actors! Below is a picture of the program with “signatures” from the warm and welcoming cast! It also handily includes all future performance dates! Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children. For more info on the play or the main stage offerings call 610.328.4271 or visit www. pcstheater.org!