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CRT's unpredictable Pants on Fire not just for kids

Posted: Friday, Jun 21st, 2013

A week later, using Grandpa’s face for a roller blade ramp is still funny.

The sweet blader moves straight out of the ’90s came straight out of nowhere last week like the bumbling old man and the entirety of the Creede Repertory Theatre’s children’s improv play, Pants on Fire.

The play, billed as a “totally made-up show for kids,” brings out the youngster in everyone because the five-member case doesn’t offer any other option. It’s hard not to stick out your tongue and play along because, on opening day, Grandpa’s  (Brian Kusic) fate lied heavily on the imagination of the audience, which became a unified force in the fight for justice. In the end, however, the cast knew the children would make all that was wrong right again, until the next show, that is, because it’s never the same.

It all started that day with a magic black top hat filled with the most “coolest and craziest names” for the hero of the story. When the lights went down, the on-the-spot pianist cued up in the key of anticipation to find out who would travel through the crowd’s imagination, onto the stage and, in this serendipitous case, into the The Story of Liss.

Liss (Caitlin Wise) was the heroine who wanted only to ride her bike without training wheels and without getting tangled up in a spider’s web. With her friend Rhiny the Rhino (Graham Ward) at her side and a grilled cheese sandwich in her belly, she took to the road on two wheels. No sooner did neighboring, roller blading, evil, bike loathing husband and wife duo (John DiAntonio and Jessica Jackson) stop and torment her with marshmallow yam casserole, banishment to a closet and, what would be the final straw, the use of her Grandpa’s body to catch some sweet air to master a triple Lutz with a fandango ending.

With spontaneous calls for “music and lights,” the audience’s signal to dig into their “pockets full of ideas,” Liss’ eventual triumph came after a series of unforeseeable lessons Wise commanded with a childlike fearlessness. She recoiled like a little girl when she first saw the cockroach in the closet where she was sentenced after her bike was covered in marshmallow yam casserole, and then embraced the “armored spider” with the delicate and honest touch only a child possess when everything becomes clear and there are no more questions to be asked. She stood up to the bad guys with unconditional help from Rhiny and his mythical horn slap, proudly returning the bikes to their rightful place as rulers of the land because it is 2013, isn’t it?

Although she made it back on two wheels and freed her Grandpa from the likes of no good, she was unable to heal DiAntonio’s wounds from a past bike race gone badly, the real root of his hatred for the Huffy. After Liss turned his wife from using her marshmallow yam casserole for stopping bike gears from spinning to eating for desert, his suffering only grew. He broke and bowed down to the Rhino Horn of Death, and, against his kneepad wearing will, danced and sang for Liss’ success.

The only predictable part of Pants on Fire is it is playing throughout the summer, and it shouldn’t be missed. Just think of all things Grandpa could do that will keep you laughing until roller blading comes back as the coolest thing in the neighborhood.

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