Los Angeles Times
November 4, 1999
'Dr. Moreau,' 'Heart'
Taped Theater Treasures for Youths

Video: The Island of Dr. Moreau. 113 minutes. $27.
            Playing From the Heart. 98 minutes. $27.
Globalstage Productions Inc. (888) 324-5623.

By LYNNE HEFFLEY, Times Staff Writer

Globalstage, filling a unique niche in the home video market, seeks out and tapes theater-for-youth productions here and abroad for audiences ages 7 to 14. These two splendid productions are prize finds, the best to date.

Taproot Theatre of Seattle presents a dynamic production of "The Island of Dr. Moreau," H.G. Wells' haunting horror tale about a scientist who experiments on animals in his island House of Pain, trying to eradicate the beast in them and turn them into men.

Among the terrific cast are Joshua M. Bott as shipwrecked biologist and unwilling witness Edward Prendick; Nolan Palmer as embittered Dr. Moreau, with delusions of godhood; and Dawn Adora Plummer, who is striking as Moreau's finest achievement: a perfect woman crafted from a wild puma.

Sean R. Gaffney wrote the literate, taut script. Director Scott Nolte's staging is equally taut, giving charged dimension to scenes with Moreau's failures--creatures he was unable to make fully human, who worship, obey and fear him--and with Kate's gradual discovery of herself.

Throughout, Moreau justifies his mission to the audience--"You call horror what is beauty, if you had the eyes to see"--and demands that they consider questions about theology, morality and humanity: Where is the line between beast and man, god and man?

Done on a small stage, with a small cast, it's riveting stuff, created not only to entertain but also to challenge its young audience.

Globalstage scores high marks again with "Playing From the Heart," a fact-based world premiere production about hearing-impaired professional solo percussionist Evelyn Glennie.

Creatively filmed in London by the BBC and performed by Wimbledon's Polka Theatre for Children, the lyrical drama, written by Charles Way and directed by Vicky Ireland, tells of this real-life Scottish artist's driving ambition to be a professional musician from the age of 8, when she began to lose her hearing, until her acceptance as a teenager into Britain's prestigious Royal Academy of Music.

"When I was a child, I could hear fields waking up, stretching their muddy arms. . . . I could hear the wind comb the long grass," remembers Glennie (stunningly portrayed by Louise Bolton). When she can no longer hear outside sounds, she exquisitely tunes into sounds "inside"--her father's heartbeat, the vibrations of percussion instruments. (Her understanding dad is played by Ian Stuart Robertson.)

Afterward, the real Glennie, a Grammy nominee this year (for best classical crossover album) who performed here in January with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, speaks about the play and her life.

The only miscues in these two fine offerings are stilted introductory and post-show segments with host Elizabeth McNamer and her game, young companion, Preston. Discussion of the plays' themes and historical and social context would be more engaging if McNamer, a professor of British origin, was considerably less pedantic and less prone to unchallenged absolutes.