Mommy Abula’s Miraculous Traveling Carnival of Wonders, Clock Productions, at the National Pastime Theater. Step right up, folks, and hear this tale of two children who look–well, different from other people. And of parents who don’t know what to make of their oddly formed offspring. And of the fine line between compassionate protection and abusive exploitation. And of a society in which those who would formerly have been considered monsters can hope to live happily ever after. And of the challenges presented by new choices and opportunities.

Michael Mark Chemers’s play is structured something like a carnival show: its episodic plot centers on Mommy’s search for a creature so bizarre it will revive interest in an increasingly unpopular entertainment genre. But the most casual utterances and actions raise intriguing questions. Why is Utah a breeding ground for biological aberrations? Has tabloid TV replaced traveling freak shows? What price “normalcy”?

This intellectual density makes the play a bit unfocused at times, but as directed by Allen Jeffrey Rein, the sturdy Clock Productions cast, led by Janet Hurley Kimlicko as the indomitable Mommy Abula, deliver clean, uncluttered performances firmly grounded in the corporal world even as they hint at the horror and mystery beneath its surface. The result is a haunting parable of beauties and beasts that continues to pique our imaginations long after it’s over, as we return to a world suddenly swarming with possibility.

–Mary Shen Barnidge