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Eugene Weekly : Theater : 5.27.10

 

Fantastical Confabulation

The University Theatre presents Annelie in the Depths of the Night

by Anna Grace

Mouseking (Charlie Van Duyn)
Mouseking (Charlie Van Duyn) with two Tap-Happy Mice (Sidney Johnson and Olivia Shaw). Photos by Ariel Ogden

The moon rides in serenely, her illuminated Elizabethan ruff casting a soft glow on her sweet face and auburn hair. The vehicle she peddles is half bicycle, half scaffolding, and easily holds Annelie and her Mouseking as they take off for adventures that lead forwards and backwards, left and right. It sounds fun, but like all childhood adventures, there is a fine line between fun and fear, mystery and misery. 

We don’t know why Annelie (Gwenmarie White) is staying with her grandmother. Something is broken in her own home, and although her parents appear in her dreams and even in the rising arguments of the moon and the mouse king, we, like Annelie, are not allowed to know what went wrong. We are only invited to ride along on her dreams and imaginings, and to try to make meaning out of a world turned upside down.

Based on the Dutch children’s fable by Imme Dros and adapted for the stage by Jennifer Schlueter, Annelie in the Depths of the Night is a total work. The collective creativity of the University Theater artistic team come together as many voices, all urgently and enthusiastically telling one story. Annelie’s world is magically created by the design team and filled with wonderland-like characters. Anchoring the production is White, who plays Annelie’s age and angst with simple clarity. 

This production does a nice job of eking out the fears of childhood, like the betrayal of a swing gone too high or a fantastical circus with an authoritarian ringmaster barking, “Hey, little girl, I said laugh!” John Schmor wanted to produce a play for girls about a girl’s adventure. Annelie in the Depths of the Night hits on the darkness of childhood fears while embracing the delights of an imagination run wild. In the end, Annelie’s fantasy of traveling moons and tap dancing mice ring as true as any reflection on childhood.

Annelie in the Depths of the Night runs through June 5 at the Hope Theatre. Tix at (541) 346-4363 or

tickets.uoregon.edu