A note to parents of IWU theater majors: rest assured, you are getting your money's worth.
Proof of this is clearly evident by the department's courageous tackling of Australian playwright Angela Betzien's graphic novel brought to life, "Where in the World Is Frank Sparrow?," now on the McPherson Theatre stage through Sunday.
Betzien, Australia's premiere author for teenage audiences, paints a darkish allegorical tale about fitting in in a troubled world.
Versed heavily in rhyme, "Sparrow" employs some fantastic underworld puppets who scour the mean streets of Stab City in search of Frank Sparrow, a predestined hero who is unaware of his superpower until, to save his love, he is forced into his fate.
Under the direction of Thomas A. Quinn, the swiftly paced, high voltage ensemble works like a well-oiled machine. And thanks to costume designer Marcia K. McDonald's clever, steampunk-influenced production contribution, they resemble one, too.
Kenny Tran leads the way in the title role, endearing as the flawed foundling who flinches at his own shadow while he tiptoes through the gritty streets. That is, until he meets Kira, the forceful and seemingly fearless daughter of a gang leader, played to the hilt by Debra Madans.
As their friendship grows into more, Sparrow becomes the being he was always meant to be.
Movement director Jean Kerr successfully choreographs the physical demands of the script made possible through the creation of a city scape by scenic designer Sydney Achler.
I held my breath a couple of times, as they scaled the artfully placed scaffolding and concrete, but these talented kids made all that climbing and jumping look easy.
Completing the picture are the divine creatures created by Milwaukee-based puppet designer Brandon Kirkham, who also conducted a puppet workshop for cast and crew.
At just 57 minutes, this production reflects many hours working to perfect all of the connected components. A truly unique theatrical experience, "Where in the World Is Frank Sparrow?" is suitable for audiences aged 13 and up.
Stiller is a freelance writer who reviews plays for The Pantagraph.