The real star of the Kennedy Center’s world premiere, commissioned production of “A Wind in the Door” did not herself appear on stage during the show’s just-ended run.
This one-hour staging based on the 1973 Madeleine L’Engle young adult novel can boast of a strong cast and effective adaptation by Jacqueline Goldfinger. But the highlight of the show was the costume design by Ivania Stack.
…strong cast and effective adaptation…the highlight of the show was the costume design by Ivania Stack.
The second novel in L’Engle’s Time Quintet series sees the return of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin, made famous in 1962’s A Wrinkle in Time. This book, however, is not as well-known. Goldfinger assumes prior audience knowledge of the series — perhaps necessary in a brief production, but not without its costs.
I came into the show with some basic knowledge of the series as whole, having read A Wrinkle in Time ages ago, remembering the most famous characters and the broad outlines of L’Engle’s fictional universe. However, Goldfinger’s script immediately tosses the audience into the deep end of the pool, and it took me a good 15 minutes to start to understand what was going on.
In brief, six-year-old Charles Wallace is ailing, and his teenage sister Meg and her friend Calvin are caring for him. They are visited by an otherworldly teacher called Blajeny and a dragon-like creature called Proginoskes (“Progo” for short), who say the humans must shrink down and venture inside Charles Wallace’s body to convince a farandole — a sentient micro-organelle — to resist the siren song of the demonic Echthroi and “root” inside the young boy to save his life.
The story is intriguing and builds on the mythos introduced in A Wrinkle in Time, but is hard for someone coming fresh to the narrative to understand. Goldfinger deals with the varied elements of the tale quite competently once immersed in it, but her script would have been stronger with some introductory exposition.
Alicia Grace as Meg handles the tricky task of portraying an adolescent character in a story for young audiences with deceptive ease. Tyasia Velines is great as the bubbly, energetic, but sometimes arrogant Progo, who learns to see Meg as a friend and not as a rival for the beloved Blajeny’s attention.
Stack, who has designed costumes for more than 40 theatres over a career spanning more than two decades, dresses Progo in brightly colored, nearly luminescent feathers. The effect is delightful and contrasts with her work in a creepy scene early in the show where Meg is confronted by several false versions of Calvin. Here, Stack uses muted grays to convey horror.
Puppet designer Matt McGee constructed a colorful, towering body for Lynette Rathnam to work inside as Blajeny. (It’s unfortunate the character has only a few minutes of stage time, since the work is a marvel.) Luciana Stecconi’s set makes use of oblique angles to present a space that is both present in the “real” world and in the dimension-hopping world of the story.
“A Wind in the Door” runs through September 11, 2021 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566. For more information about the Kennedy Center’s Performances for Young Audiences season, click here.