Regular patrons of Casa Mañana shows may find the newest production of The Adventures of Brer Rabbit a bit, well, different from the usual family-friendly fare.
When theatergoers arrive, the actors are already on stage and mingling at a backyard bash. Once accustomed to the setting, you feel like you're eavesdropping on the little shindig.
When the music starts, however, there's no question that you are in the Southern briar patch of the familiar story. As the ensemble performs Dixie Lullaby, you think, aha, this is a musical. With the live accompaniment of a banjo player and keyboard player (such a nice touch), the mood becomes downright festive.
But then the dialogue begins, and once you get past the Southern drawls, the audience is thrown for another loop. This is actually classic storytelling told through an imaginative twist -- the humans become the animal characters -- Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear and so on.
For adults and younger children, this may seem jarring. In fact, one young audience member sitting near me during the Saturday matinee performance asked the question that many may have had on their minds: "Where's the rabbit?"
The kids clutching their stuffed bunnies in the audience may have expected to see an actual rabbit (or an actor in a bunny costume) rather than having to imagine that the man in front of them in the cap with the floppy ears was, in fact, Brer Rabbit.
For me, as a parent, the storytelling was refreshing. In an age of lifelike videogames and movies, it was nice to watch children sitting captivated in a theater for an hour and being allowed to let their imaginations run wild.
The creativity flourished during the scenes with Brer Fox (Wiley Kolster) and Brer Bear (Mack Charger) portrayed as the Odd Couple meets Beavis and Butthead. Kolster not-so-subtlety channeled former President George W. Bush in his Brer Fox even adding lines such as "I am the Decider" into the mix.
In the end, the message of Brer Rabbit becomes clear: It's OK to be different, after all.
The Adventures of Brer Rabbit
When: April 1-April 17
Ages: All Ages
Run time:60 minutes; there's no intermission
Where:Casa Mañana Theatre, 3101 West Lancaster Ave, Fort Worth, TX 76107