Bombs explode and sirens blare as a young girl runs into an abandoned house to take shelter away from the war-torn world around her. Alone and scared, the girl named Young Girl, finds a doll amongst the objects left behind. With the appearance of the doll, the magical story of Lily Plants a Garden comes to life.
Jose Cruz Gonzalez’s Lily Plants a Garden, directed by Elizabeth Shaffer, a third-year graduate in the MFA Applied Drama and Theatre for the Young program, opened Friday night in Eastern Michigan University Sponberg Theatre. It tells the story of Young Girl and her imaginative creation of a Zoebeing named Lily, who like herself, lives in a war-torn world.
Young Girl, played by Sara Long, started the play with emotion as she shook with terror to the sound of bombs outside the house. She screamed and displayed the fear of how an eight-year old would feel in the particular situation. Scrimmaging through the rubble-filled house, Long takes the audience with her through her discovery of different items such as a music box, playhouse and eventually a doll.
The doll sparks her imagination as she begins to tell the story about an abandoned Zoebeing baby named Lily, a vegetable-like creature, who is found by a Wuluman couple, an animal and soil-like creature. The audience is introduced to the characters of Young Girl’s imagination by the appearance of the Wuluman couple and baby Lily.
Papa Wuluman, played by Matt Wallace, and Mama Wuluman, played by Kelsey DeGuise, takes the stage as hairy- eared creatures with tusks on their cheeks. They were in debate about raising a creature who existed as their enemy. They lived in the abandoned house of Young Girl’s world where they use the left behind furniture and objects to live on. Young Girl existed with them off to the side as a supporting character in the story and a narrator to the audience.
Over time, Lily and the Wulumans experienced hate from their community after the arrival of Lily. Lily, played by Kiana Gandol, is green and has red curly hair, the opposite look of a Wuluman. Papa Wuluman tried to cover her with a mask and teach her how to howl like a Wuluman.
Wallace as Papa Wuluman was beastly as well as father-like in the development of the story whereas Mama Wuluman was caring and nurturing as the mother figure for Lily.
The community, however, struck back to the family with violence, which ended in Papa Wuluman floating away and Lily and Mama Wuluman to migrate to the Land of Rubble.
There the audience is introduced to puppets: Miss Bernice, an Irish ladybug played by Adam Kennedy and Rosey, a French ballerina rose played by Savannah Damoth. The two puppeteers who also served as ensemble for the play were skillful in the movements and reality of the ladybug and flower. Kennedy was humorous and a noteworthy performer for playing numerous characters.
In the Land of Rubble, the audience follows Lily, her mother and new friends as they try to survive in a war zone. Lily starts a garden there, which fosters hope for the characters in the play. Gandol portrays Lily as a girl to easily fall in love with as she grows in maturity and light during a war between Zoebeing and Wuluman.
The crew of the play were phenomenal in decoration of the world of Lily and Young Girl. The fantasy-like appearance of Lily and the Wulumans by Nikki Pietron and Julia Czekai was creative and original for the fantasy realm of the play.
The original music of the play by Howard Cass was yet another beautiful added caption of performance for the show. Cass’s composition was perfect with the atmosphere and emotion of the scenes.
The experience of the play was taken into the hands of the set, light, sound and prop designer, Nicklas Casella, who created the ugly of war and the beauty of imagination in the play. It was impressive how he collaborated the two worlds into one space.
His contribution to the production was artful and skilled. The puppets and choreography by Seth Shaffer were special for the production where they added a loving texture to the hard subject of war. The puppets were both creative and well crafted.
Lily Plants a Garden overall was a beautiful caption of the reality of youth and war. By having puppets, a skilled crew and actors who were convincing in emotion and action of the subject, Shaffer’s production was a success in storytelling.