Sometimes when I go to see a play presented by the Southern Miss Department of Theatre, I forget that it is meant to be a learning environment for all of the actors, directors and crewmembers.
Commercial theaters worry all about the bottom line and attracting as many audience members as possible, so they pick plays they know will do that. The plays at USM are all about broadening the horizons of the students. I’ve been to all three season shows every semester since my freshman year, and, I believe, “The Wind in the Willows” is the first children’s play ever done by the department.
Because of this, audiences should not go in expecting any raunchy material or deep allusions to political struggles.
Am I saying this is a bad thing? Not at all. Sometimes people just want a break, and students especially don’t want to have to analyze everything they encounter looking for a deeper meaning.
With the academic crunch that comes at the end of every semester including the numerous papers and projects approaching, it might be nice to simply allow your mind to relax for two and a half hours and enjoy a good show.
“The Wind in the Willows” is about the anthropomorphic adventures of woodland animals. While the character Rat enjoys a casual ride along the river in his boat, he meets Mole, and the two quickly become friends. Rat introduces Mole to many of the other animals in the woods, such as Badger and Mr. Toad.
Badger is the closest thing I saw to a crotchety old man and Mr. Toad is so confident and energetic that he just makes anything he does the most exciting thing to ever do. There are other creatures who make up the ensemble like rabbits, squirrels and the obviously evil weasels. After all, what says evil better than all red and black clothing?
The play doesn’t have much serious conflict aside from Mr. Toad’s shopping and adrenaline addictions. While it gets him into trouble all throughout the play, there are no serious consequences for his actions. It seems to be one of those plays where everything just works out in the end. As I said, it is a children’s play.
Any children in the audience may also enjoy the random songs placed throughout the play. No, this isn’t a musical. There just seem to be points where the characters spontaneously burst into song.
Honestly, it was a bit distracting from the action of the play. The songs rarely furthered the plot in any way, and just seemed to make the flow of the play come to a screeching halt for a few minutes.
This is probably the least complex production for Southern Miss so far. If you are looking for a play filled with political and social commentary, this is not the play for you. If you are looking to give your mind a break or are hoping to stir up some nostalgic feelings for reading the book or watching the Disney version, then this would be the perfect treat for you.
It is apparent the actors have worked extremely hard trying to make their animal body movements and makeup perfect, and for that I recommend the play. However, it left me feeling a tad bit underwhelmed. Seeing as how I am a college student with no association to young children, I might not be the key target audience for this show.
Check it out, but don’t go in expecting the play to be something it isn’t.
The play opens Nov. 13 and runs again on Nov. 14, 15, 21 and 22. Each show begins at 7 p.m. Matinee shows will also be performed on Nov. 16 and 23 at 2 p.m., with a pre-show talk at 1 p.m. before the Nov. 16 performance. All shows are in Tatum Theatre.