BOTHER!, Famous Door Theatre Company. Notwithstanding Dorothy Parker’s famous claim that she “fwowed up” reading them, the children’s poems and stories that A.A. Milne wrote in the mid-1920s have proven durable entertainment for grown-ups as well as kids. The adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh and his pals are clever, thoughtful satires of the absurdities of human behavior, and the more experience one has of that, the funnier Milne’s material is. This droll evening of story telling by British actor Peter Dennis makes a convincing case that the Pooh tales, inspired by Milne’s son Christopher Robin and his toy animals, are really aimed at adults, though older preteens are likely to enjoy Bother! as well.
Mixing prose and verse selections with bittersweet anecdotes about his friendship with the now-elderly Christopher Milne, Dennis steers clear of sticky nostalgia, cloying cuteness, and Disney-style exaggeration; his brisk, intelligent delivery highlights the Wodehousian humor and psychological insight informing these studies of friendship. Among Dennis’s resources are a dry, warm wit, a disarmingly nonchalant self- assurance, and a supple, sonorous voice capable of swift shifts of character; his often-hilarious impersonations of Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, and the rest of Milne’s menagerie recall the rustic clowns of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With his stage furnished like a cozy Chelsea sitting room, decorated with a miniature teddy bear, he performs from well-worn editions of Milne’s books, inviting viewers to ask for favorite selections; though a more carefully prepared program might better illuminate Milne’s rich themes, the loose structure–fear of abandonment, the tension between dependency and rebellion–gives the evening a gentle spontaneity that suits the material.