Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Lifeline Theatre. By now Lifeline ensemble member Christina Calvit is an old hand at adapting fiction for the stage. And for someone who’s unpacked and streamlined dense works by Austen and Kipling, a fairly straightforward adaptation of Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series shouldn’t have posed much of a challenge. Calvit has certainly captured the essence of the character, a daft old woman who lives in an upside-down house and has magic cures for all sorts of bad habits and problems. But the script lacks a sense of continuity and a clear through line. Ultimately this brisk but episodic production is less about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle than about the individual children who cry out for her attention and aid.

Paul Gilvary has provided an up-tempo swing and blues score, a good match for Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s eccentricities and the production’s decidedly retro feel. The high-octane sound track that opens the show–made up mainly of pop and surf instrumentals–establishes a high energy level, but in the end Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle doesn’t do much to engage its audience. Calvit doesn’t provide room in the script for the four cast members to take suggestions from the audience, nor does she help audience members imagine themselves as part of the play’s world. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is never short on charm or warmth, but unlike many of Lifeline’s KidSeries productions, it doesn’t encourage children to take an active role in the proceedings.

–Nick Green