Theater Review

"Gulliver's Travels" plays at Ivy Station through Sept. 8.

Going all the way with Gulliver

By Juliet Schoen / Staff Writer

Although “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift was written as a satire for adults, it is more readily available in the children’s department of the library. The whimsical tale of tiny people, giant people and talking horses that talk is certainly fairy tale stuff. The trick of translating the fantasy aspect into theater is something not easy to do.

Somehow, The Actors’ Gang has managed to pull off this daunting task by using puppets, screens, costumes and a great deal of imagination. Since Swift wrote the book back in the early 1700s, all social references are ignored as past history, in favor of interpreting Swift’s soaring creativity. Who can remember, or care, that a war takes place over a dispute about which end of the egg is to be cracked open. Swift is mocking the war between England and France.

Gulliver first lands in Lilliput where he finds that the inhabitants are only several inches high. He has the power of a giant and can accomplish great deeds. However, through putting out the fire in the emperor’s palace by natural means, he is dubbed a traitor and is threatened with a rather unpleasant punishment.

He escapes from the Lilliputians and wanderlust brings him to the land of Brobdingnag, where he learns what it’s like to be a tiny person in a land of giants. Here a versatile puppet, that looks amazingly like the actor playing Gulliver, is used to show the disparity in size. Other clever devices are used to portray the land of the Houynhnms, horses of course, as they lord it over the brutish, human-like Yahoos.

What seems like a cast of thousands turns out to be a cast of seven, headed by Keythe Farley as Gulliver. Farley looks just like the Gulliver of my imagination and is dressed like the Gulliver in any children’s book. He is called upon to perform various tasks, and he comes through handsomely.

Others in the cast, who must change as quickly as a chameleon, are Chris Bell, Corey G. Lovett, Vanessa Mizzone, Molly O’Neill, Steven M. Porter and Malcolm Foster Smith.

A great deal of credit must go to the people behind the scenes. The play was adapted for the stage by Joshua Zeller and directed brilliantly by P. Adam Walsh. Original music was composed by Ara Dabandjian and the costumes were created by Shannon Kennedy.

The Actors’ Gang performs in a charming theater at the Ivy Substation, 9070 Culver Blvd. in Culver City. Happily, there is free parking and Thursday night performances are “pay what you can.” Performances take place on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3. Regular tickets are $25.

The final performance takes place on Sept. 8. Bring the children? Perhaps the scatology will amuse them while the suggestive references will escape them.