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Review: ‘Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse’ at Black Box Theater

All of the children in "Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse" have a dance party in one of the last scenes of the play. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Lilly, the protagonist of "Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse," was played by Lucia Fougner. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Kaeden Stevens (left) and Will Wagner played Chester and Wilson, respectively, in the Woodbury Community Theatre's presentation of "Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse." The friends are worried because Wilson has swallowed a watermelon seed. Rachel Fergus / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

"Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse" was published in 1996 and is still well-loved by children today. The book, written by Kevin Henkes, has been used in grade school classes to learn about character traits and Lilly can be found in coloring pages and Halloween costumes. The play, based on the book, was performed by the Woodbury Community Theatre on Feb. 15-17 and 22-24.

"Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse" was held at the Black Box Theater in East Ridge High School. The theater is a small space and has seating on three sides of the stage. The three walls of seats allowed children in the audience to run from their parents on one side of the theater to their friends on another side before the audience was asked to silence phones and enjoy the show.

The set for "Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse" remained the same throughout the show, actors would bring out the few props needed, like a baby stroller or stools, between scenes. The small space and simple scene production suggested, upon first entering the theater, that the play would be amateur. However, the performers were very talented and the stage and props did not feel too simplified. In fact, the lack of large props meant that more attention was paid to the nuances of acting.

The costumes were also very simple; just mouse noses and face paint. All of the female characters had white noses and faces with pink whiskers, while the male character had brown noses and fur with black whiskers. Like the set, the costuming was simple but not too plain.

The show opens with friends Chester (Kaeden Stevens) and Wilson (Will Wagner) having a picnic together. Chester and Wilson are important characters throughout the play as they befriend Lilly and are in the same class with her in school. Both Stevens and Wagner are very impressive actors for their ages. The two actors recited all their lines without faltering or stumbling over them. The first three pages of the script is a conversation between the two boys about their picnic and the terrifying realization that Wilson had swallowed a watermelon seed.

As the rest of the cast is introduced throughout the play, it quickly becomes clear that the children on stage have spent time practicing and memorizing their lines.

The student cast as Lilly, Lucia Fougner, was phenomenal. She had numerous scenes that required her to be onstage by herself and she, not surprisingly, was the cast member with the most lines to learn.

Since Black Box Theater is smaller than an average theater, actors did not wear microphones. They had to project everything so that the audience could hear them. Very rarely was a piece of dialogue inaudible for those in the back rows.

"Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse" was a fun, energetic play for families. The small theater ensured that children in the audience were able to see everything without standing on their chairs or in the aisle.