The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title The Adventures of Peter Rabbit and His Friends
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show May 16-June 7, 2015
Reviewer Gerry Camp
Review The current offering at Sutter Street Theatre in their weekend Family Series is a play called The Adventures of Peter Rabbit and His Friends. I was less than enthusiastic about seeing children hopping around the stage in cute animal costumes. Potter’s animal stories are very short and very cute—hardly the entertainment an adult would choose.

But it turns out that’s not what’s on Sutter Street’s stage at all. Of course the famous Potter stories are dramatized: “Peter Rabbit,” “Jemima Puddle-Duck,” “Two Bad Mice” and others. And we do see the talented children Sutter Street is always able to cast, most playing several different roles, all outfitted in beautiful animal costumes created by resident costumer Eileen Beaver. My favorite is Ptolemy Tortoise, but all are clever and charming.

But what holds this entertainment together is the story, often sad but ultimately happy, of the creator of this treasury of children’s tales, Beatrix Potter. The first character we meet is Annie Carter Moore, an elderly woman in a wheelchair who identifies herself as Beatrix’s first governess and her best friend in her youth. Performed delightfully by Audrey Harr, Annie gets up from her wheelchair and ages backwards to her youth and introduces the young Beatrix. Annie leaves Beatrix, marries, and has eight children who magically appear one after the other in, maybe, five minutes. Potter begins as an author writing stories to send to Annie’s children.

Beatrix, played warmly by Ruby Kirlin, illustrates her own stories, which she begins to self publish in 1900. Her talents, not only in literature and art, but in biology as well, are initially discouraged by her parents, played by Rich Kirlin (Ruby’s father in real life) and Mary Comstock. Beatrix is, after all, just a girl.

Soon her stories find a professional publisher, become hugely successful, and provide Potter with the wealth she needs to develop her gifts independently. Tragedy enters her life with the sudden death of her first love. Her life story, interwoven with the dramatization of her tales, continues to be narrated by her lifelong friend, Annie.

Like many children’s shows at Sutter Street, the performances are family affairs. The Matta family is represented by all three boys, Ben, Jonathan, and Joshua and their sister Rebekah, all wonderfully talented, each playing several parts. The Kirlin family, in addition to Ruby and her father, also contributes the first performance by tiny Max as the cute Baby Bunny. The always wonderful Mary Comstock plays Beatrix’s mother, sharing the stage with daughter Zoe and with Mia, who serves as a stage manager.

On opening day, Ally Dietz, a frequent actor at Sutter Stage, skillfully directing her first show, was required to do a bit of last-minute rescue. Hannah Hurst, who has been outstanding in many roles at Sutter Street, had a family emergency the day before, and Ally expertly filled in for her in two roles in Act One. In Act Two, Hurst’s star turn as Jemima Puddle-Duck, was beautifully played by Natalie Collins, who memorized the part overnight.

I don’t have room to mention several other actors, children and adults, who all perform excellently. My initial hesitation overcome, I had a fine afternoon of theatre, and can recommend The Adventures of Peter Rabbit and His Friends to theatre lovers of any age.

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