Theater review: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

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From the May 3, 2012 edition

If you walk into Available Light Theatre’s “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” not knowing Whuffie from ad-hocs, don’t worry. You’ll figure it out. In fact, figuring is part of the fun.

Yet fun is only part of Matt Slaybaugh’s adaptation of Cory Doctorow’s dystopian novel, in which Disney cast members compete for creative control of the park’s attractions. The whole world has been Disneyfied: All such unpleasantries as work and death having been eliminated. Personal worth is now measured in the aforementioned Whuffie, an almost tangible measure of cool that everyone can see immediately on your online profile.

Like so much of the best science fiction, “Down and Out” critiques where we’re headed by raising profound questions about identity, our relationship to technology, our fascination with the virtual over the real and the nature of reality itself. And it’s all told in the context of a struggle between preserving the historical and nostalgic aspects of the park versus upgrading it.

Drew Eberly plays the renegade hero Julius with a deliberation that is pitch-perfect. Acacia Duncan’s portrayal of his girlfriend Lil rides the waves of her relationships with him and his friend Dan (Ian Short). Proving again that there are no small parts, Michelle Schroeder gives the villainous Debra — a mutant melding of Minnie Mouse, Princess Leia and Sleeping Beauty’s nemesis Maleficent — a persuasive smarminess.

“Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” will permanently alter the way you see Disney and all of its Imagineering.

Matt Slaybaugh photo