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The Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre ladled out the yummy first of three performances of Stone Soup on Friday night in Little Rock.

The 45-minute show's three performers -- Sharon Combs, Kenneth Barron and Rebecca Taylor -- bring a fresh recipe to this reheating of a classic folk tale. The general story is that a traveler with nothing to eat tricks a passel of stingy villagers into sharing what they have.

In this telling, written and directed by Keith Smith, the traveler (Barron) knocks on exactly the right door to ask for a handout. He happens on the cottage of a kindly old woman (Combs), who gives him a "magic stone."

With this, he is off to the big, busy town to pretend he can make soup with just a rock and a kettle of water. Taylor neatly mimes the reactions of all the characters in town, from a scampering dog to an arrogant constable.

Stone Soup is a Studio Show production, apart from the theater's Main Stage performances. The setting is a little black-box space backstage, and the idea is to focus on characters and imagination.

Friday night's audience was about 60 people, adults seated in the back, children on the floor in front. Combs entered through the giggling young audience like a bustling bag lady, setting up a good part of the show using the belongings in her Santa-size bag.

She narrates the story, while Barron and Taylor act it out like silent movie clowns, accompanied by Lori Isner's score for piano, kazoo and toy xylophone.

The props and settings are so minimal, even the stone is imaginary. But Erin Larkin's improbable costumes set a tone of once-upon-a-time the way Maxfield Parrish might have painted it, and the performances take on a cabaret quality.

In this scaled-down environment, everybody is close to the stage -- nearly close enough to smell the soup.

Stone Soup continues at 2 p.m. today and Sunday at the Arts Center, 501 E. Ninth St.

Next in the Studio Series will be Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, May 10-14.

More information is available at arkansasartscenter.org or by calling (501) 372-4000.

Metro on 01/21/2017

Print Headline: Stone Soup aims to spark imaginations

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