WOODS HOLE — The Woods Hole Theater Company’s production of Oliver Lansley’s “The Terrible Infants” is the answer to the question, “What can you do with a couple of restless kids on a rainy day on Cape Cod?” The show, directed by Shannon Sylvia, is a cute little nugget of a play with colorful characters and identifiable story lines for the little ones, and a little adult humor and satire thrown in for good measure.
Four storytellers/characters in whiteface somewhere between Edward Gorey and clown makeup weave a series of yarns loosely based on the tales of the Brothers Grimm. (Don’t worry about the kids’ reaction to the makeup; it’s not as scary as it sounds.) The mildly allegorical tales are filled with physical humor that makes the little ones laugh out loud and punctuated by sound effects throughout, such as snoring that fills the theater and tracks of popular songs.
The unifying thread in the piece is the story of Tilly (Nicole Millette), a seemingly sweet and perfect little thing who is not really all she seems. For Tilly, immaculate white-collared dress notwithstanding, tells tall tales. So, it seems only appropriate that Tilly should begin to sprout a tail of her own — in a sort of fractured version of the Pinocchio story. Youngsters love the fact that the tail takes on a life of its own, and Millette is fun as she feigns attempts to outrun her own appendage. She also takes on the role of the oh-so-glam Beatrice (whose repeated chorus of “me, me, me” attracts the attention of a swarm of bees and a grizzly), and Linea, a girl made of rags. As Beatrice, Millette adeptly bows a violin to represent the sound of the bees.
Amber Cranston plays the bear in the Beatrice tale, along with the ravenous Tumb (who actually eats his “mum”) and Mingus, who is covered with fungus and putrid odors because he refuses to bathe. She is especially cute as the grizzly, outfitted in furry gloves and a cap that is a bear’s open mouth. As the bear, she tries vainly to capture the attention of the self-centered Bea, who is unimpressed by the presence of the beast. Eventually the two walk offstage together and the storyteller/ narrator (Louise Patrick) wonders aloud if Beatrice eventually bored the bear to death or if the pair moved together to France.
“One thing is clear, while bears may like honey, they don’t like Beas,” she intones.
Erik Murray also does triple duty as Tumb’s Mum, an Old Lady and Thinggummyboy, who is so quiet and shy he eventually disappears. He’s the perfect choice as the old ladies in the show, a cartoon-like granny limping across the stage in a gray wig and flowered housedress.
There is really no set besides a wooden crate from which the players pull various props and a cardboard giant’s castle in one scene. But the minimalist setting seems perfectly suited to the casual, intimate feel of the small community hall housing the production.
A note about props: The actors make ingenious use of simple accoutrements such as papier-mache heads and an umbrella that opens and closes when Tumb fills his tummy, painting storybook pictures for the audience.
One final note: Simply walking the streets of Woods Hole to get to the theater is a summery joy. There is nothing quite like this proverbial seaside village, adding a wonderful setting to a pleasant hour-plus of family theater.