by Glen Berger

Peabody, the Science Fair Affair

October 17 - 25
Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium

Herald-Times Review

Cardinal for Kids premiere production brings science to life

By Matthew Waterman 
October 20, 2015

It is the opinion of Alyssa Peabody that the world is weird. Her curiosity compels her to explain the weirdness of the world, and her method for doing so is the tried-and-true practice of scientific inquiry.

Alyssa is the 11-year-old scientist at the center of Glen Berger’s “Peabody, the Science Fair Affair,” Cardinal Stage Company’s first show in the 2015-16 Cardinal for Kids series. This production, preceded by last year’s “The Birthday Feast,” is the second kids’ show to be commissioned and given a world premiere by Cardinal.

Cardinal’s production of “Peabody” will tour more than 25 middle and elementary schools throughout southern Indiana, playing for thousands of kids.

The 50-minute play is designed to get students engaged in science. As with any educational theater for children, the name of the game is to make the topic entertaining.

Playwright Glen Berger certainly has experience in doing so; he’s written more than 150 children’s TV episodes, including ones for “Curious George” and “Arthur.”

“Peabody” is smoothly directed by Randy White. White has worked with Berger before, notably as director of the off-Broadway premiere of “Underneath the Lintel,” Berger’s highly successful one-man play. Cardinal regulars may recall White’s 2013 production of “Underneath the Lintel,” which starred Mike Price.

The story of “Peabody” revolves around Alyssa’s preparations for her school’s upcoming science fair. Despite the school’s moratorium on projects that involve explosions or bodily fluids, Alyssa plans to collect and analyze urine samples from her older brother Brian (an entirely unwilling participant).

However, Alyssa has a competitor. Her classmate Philip Tucker aims to produce homemade saltpeter for the science fair. Pretty soon, Philip and Alyssa find themselves vying for the same urine. The ultimate nightmare comes when the school principal, vexed by Philip and Alyssa’s defiance of school policy, mandates that the foes collaborate on a single project.

The two child roles of Philip and Alyssa are filled by local high school actors Connor Starks and Lola Kennedy. Both have starred in Cardinal productions before; Starks as Eugene in Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs, “Kennedy as Charlie in “Willy Wonka” and the title role in “Annie.”

Starks and Kennedy are joined by two adult actors, each donning multiple ensemble roles: Carrie Fedor (Principal, Tricia, Biologist), an Indianapolis-based actor in her Cardinal debut, and Mike Price (Brian and various historical figures), the company’s associate artistic director.

All four cast members are engaging and funny. The actors keep the pace fast enough that even sections addressing the more technical aspects of science didn’t seem to bore any kids at Sunday afternoon’s performance.

“Peabody, the Science Fair Affair” brings mundane classroom science to life. Kids and parents alike will appreciate this harmonious convergence of entertainment and edification.