The Cricket in Times Square, Lifeline Theatre. George Selden wrote this warm fantasy about a cricket’s brief tenure as New York City’s most famous musician, though the 1960 children’s book may owe its lifeblood to illustrator Garth Williams. It certainly owes its nuances to his fabulous pen-and-ink renditions, full of dirty crosshatching and delirious van Gogh swirls, of the tiniest corners of a Times Square train station. If only Toby Nicholson’s set design for Lifeline communicated half that intimacy; instead his drop-cloth tableaux represent New York’s pulsating life only as we humans see it.
But it’s not Nicholson’s fault that the story’s sly cat, kindly mouse, and homesick cricket are drowned in the set’s sea of garish colors. James Sie–who’s done wonderful adaptations for Lifeline in the past–and director Katie McLean have put together an extremely drab, lifeless production. Except for a gratuitous trip through the aisles to spread the news of the cricket’s overnight celebrity, there’s little to actively engage a young audience. Instead the actors take a very literal path to the anticlimactic finale. And while Sarah Pitt’s costumes and the cast’s overblown New Yawk accents are charming enough, the show screams out for something–a bit of improvisation, a sly nod to parents, even the accidental ring of a cell phone–to punch up this third remount in 11 years.