In her tenure at Lexington Children's Theatre, artistic director Vivian Snipes has told a lot of tales, but never a whopper quite like LCT's latest show, The Tallest Tale Ever Told.
The production is the world premiere of an original play devoted to the fine art of exaggeration, over-the-top embellishment and larger-than-life hyperbole. Snipes, who wrote the play, drew from traditional tall tales such as those of Davy Crockett, but she also invented an entirely new character: Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind.
"Apparently tall tales, at least the better-known ones, are about men," Snipes wrote in the program notes. "Since most of my heroes are female, I wanted to write a tall tale about a female. One with just as much pluck, savvy, strength, and speed as any of the men."
The adventures of Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind — made of stardust, sunlight and spitfire — fit the bill.
The opening moments of the play are dizzying, as a cacophony of competing story tellers — the four-person ensemble cast — verbally slip, slide and collide in a case of frenzied narrative one-upmanship. Just where is this tale going, I wondered?
But when the opening hullabaloo subsides and the narrative takes off, becoming more focused as the play goes on, the innovative twists and turns of Snipes' imagination settle in even as the pace continues to race through a series of brief, episodic tall tales rolled into one giant tall tale.
Kind of like how Sally Ann defeats a pack of alligators by tying their tails together and whipping them around like a tornado, this production takes on a whirlwind of subplots and characters. With a lesser cast, it would just be too much, too fast and too frenzied to pull off, but the four actors of the tight-knit ensemble pull it off.
Michael Whitten simultaneously portrays Sally Ann's nine brothers with just a shift in inflection and posture, not to mention a host of other characters, including Sally Ann's love interest, Davy Crockett.
Deidre Cochran and Antony Russell also seamlessly and quickly shift among numerous characters, with Russell's whistle-y beaver language one of the most effective and funny characterization choices of the play.
Ashley Isenhower is perfectly cast as Sally Ann. Her bright, gregarious portrayal of the larger-than-life character drives the momentum of the show.
Costuming by Eric Abele and scenic design by Jerome Wills bring a pioneer spirit to the story, which does not cite a specific period but hints that it is during a time when anything was possible in the wilderness of the early American frontier.
'The Tallest Tale Ever Told'
What: Lexington Children's Theatre's world premiere of a play by LCT artistic director Vivian Snipes. Recommended for ages 8 and older.
When: 2 and 7 p.m. May 11; 2 p.m. May 12. (School shows at 10 and 11:45 p.m. May 7-10. Sometimes tickets are available for the public but call first.)
Where: LCT, 418 W. Short St.
Tickets: $14 adults, $12 children. Available at (859) 254-4546, Ext. 247, or LCTonstage.org.
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer.