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REVIEW: Ebullient Balloonacy Returns (Children’s Theatre Company)

Robert Dorfman is followed by a mischievous red balloon in Balloonacy. Photo by Dan Norman.

The Children’s Theatre Company revival of the play Balloonacy provides just the right level of silliness and heart for the preschool crowd. Barry Kornhauser wrote the play as part of CTC’s Early Childhood Initiative. Director Peter C. Brosius brings this pantomime to life with both pratfalls and pathos.

Robert Dorfman in Balloonacy. Photo by Dan Norman.

If the play reminds you of the classic French film The Red Balloon about a young boy spending time with a red balloon with a mind of its own, the similarity is not accidental. The program notes that Kornhauser premised the play on the question of “what if” the young boy grew up to be a lonely old man who forgot about his old friend the balloon.

This is a two-character play: the old man (Robert Dorfman) and the red balloon (who plays itself). With Parisian overtones, the play begins with the man preparing a lonely dinner for himself on his birthday. Through a window, a pesky red balloon seeks him out. The man keeps trying to shoo the balloon away, but it keeps popping up in the strangest places until the man relents and lets the balloon into his life. In silence, the two characters share the ups and downs of friendship and the man seems genuinely happy. The man becomes annoyed with his friend when it ruins his opportunity to eat a cupcake and he spurns the balloon. But he soon regrets his actions and the play concludes with his efforts to reunite with his friend.

Dorfman does such an incredibly job with his movements and facial expressions while interacting with the balloon that he, in essence, convinces the audience that the balloon has a personality. The 6-and-under crowd was thoroughly caught up in the show and frequently shouted to the man regarding the balloon’s location. The parent and grandparent crowd looked both amused and gratified that they did not need to hush the children’s voices and enthusiasm for the show.

Victor Zupanc’s recorded music not only emphasizes the Parisian atmosphere, it also provides cues to the audience as to the play’s different moods of zaniness, warmth and sadness. Annie Katsura Rollins’s set design convincingly shows a lonely man’s apartment with plenty of places for a mischievous balloon to hide.

The play runs approximately 35 minutes, which is perfect for the youthful audience. At the end, the children were ecstatic to be treated to a meet-and-greet session with the balloon. Children ages 7 and older may find the play to be too silly, but those under 7 and their older adults will find it to be delightful.

Robert Dorfman embraces the loonacy. Photo by Dan Norman.

Balloonacy plays at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN through November 12, 2017.

Bev Wolfe