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All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (Tiffany Theatre; 99 seats; $ 32 top) James Thomas Bailey presents a play in two acts based on the books of Robert Fulghum, adapted and directed by Ernest Zulia. Music director, David Caldwell; choreography, Valerie Zisser; set, Ramsey Avery; lighting, Monique L'Heureux, Paulie Jenkins; graphic design, Christopher Komuro; pianist, Michael Pollock. Opened, reviewed Oct. 5; runs through Nov. 24. Running time: 2 hours, 10 min. Cast: Beth Howland, Robert Mandan, David Naughton, Michael Tucci. In his bestselling collection of essays, Robert Fulghum states that kindergarten-age children see no limitations to their lives, and when asked if they can do any task, they usually respond, "Yes." Under Ernest Zulia's economical staging, a four-person ensemble dramatizes Fulghum's gentle philosophies of life, showing how the normal positive nature of children gets channeled and qualified as we all put on the mantle of adulthood. Adapted by Zulia from five of the author's books, play features a stellar cast of well-known television veterans Beth Howland ("Alice"), Robert Mandan ("Soap"), David Naughton ("My Sister Sam") and Michael Tucci ("Diagnosis Murder") in 20 vignettes punctuated by five original songs by music director David Caldwell. The actors, who were not all that secure with the staging or their lines on opening night, still manage to communicate the essence of Fulghum's refreshingly optimistic outlook. For the most part, the pieces are little gems of human observation. Wandering in and out of scenic designer Ramsey Avery's raked stage, the ensemble flows from one scene to another, narrating and playacting as they go. Caldwell's songs are more programmatic than melodic, which the ensemble handles with "actors-who-sing" enthusiasm and vitality. In the first act, Howland, as a very sensitive kindergarten teacher, allows a uniquely individual boy (Tucci) to create his own character in the class production of "Cinderella." In word and song, Tucci relates the irony of screen love god Charles Boyer's life. In reality, he was married to the same woman for 44 years, and upon her death by cancer, took his own life. Naughton describes how the power of the joy emanating from a recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony can raise one from the depths of misery to the heights of exultation. And Mandan, as an unwavering curmudgeon, allows his mind to be changed by the industriousness and integrity of a deaf boy. The highlight of the first act comes when the full ensemble relates the true tale of John Pierpont (1786-1866), who was a failure at every profession he attempted teacher, lawyer, merchant, poet, minister, politician, chaplain, clerk. Yet his simple lyrics describing a winter's sleigh ride, "Jingle Bells," have made him immortal. The second act opening, a song based on the play's title, has the full ensemble explaining the totality of life's truths that Fulghum claims are first introduced during the kindergarten years, such as: share, play fair, don't hit people, say you're sorry and always flush. Naughton, Tucci and Mandan offer a touching history of a father and son. Howland, Mandan and Tucci show how an Alzheimer's-threatened couple of 60 years manage to have Christmas whenever they want it.The fitting climax of this wondrously simple evening of theater has the ensemble relating the tale of the contemporary Greek teacher and philosopher Alexander Popoderos, who worked to achieve a reconciliation between Greece and Germany after World War II. When asked to explain the meaning of life, each actor personifies Popoderos' reply by taking out a tiny bit of mirror and reflecting a small beam of light off each other and then out into the audience. Julio Martinez

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (Tiffany Theatre; 99 seats; $ 32 top) James Thomas Bailey presents a play in two acts based on the books of Robert Fulghum, adapted and directed by Ernest Zulia. Music director, David Caldwell; choreography, Valerie Zisser; set, Ramsey Avery; lighting, Monique L’Heureux, Paulie Jenkins; graphic design, Christopher Komuro; pianist, Michael Pollock. Opened, reviewed Oct. 5; runs through Nov. 24. Running time: 2 hours, 10 min. Cast: Beth Howland, Robert Mandan, David Naughton, Michael Tucci. In his bestselling collection of essays, Robert Fulghum states that kindergarten-age children see no limitations to their lives, and when asked if they can do any task, they usually respond, “Yes.” Under Ernest Zulia’s economical staging, a four-person ensemble dramatizes Fulghum’s gentle philosophies of life, showing how the normal positive nature of children gets channeled and qualified as we all put on the mantle of adulthood. Adapted by Zulia from five of the author’s books, play features a stellar cast of well-known television veterans Beth Howland (“Alice”), Robert Mandan (“Soap”), David Naughton (“My Sister Sam”) and Michael Tucci (“Diagnosis Murder”) in 20 vignettes punctuated by five original songs by music director David Caldwell. The actors, who were not all that secure with the staging or their lines on opening night, still manage to communicate the essence of Fulghum’s refreshingly optimistic outlook. For the most part, the pieces are little gems of human observation. Wandering in and out of scenic designer Ramsey Avery’s raked stage, the ensemble flows from one scene to another, narrating and playacting as they go. Caldwell’s songs are more programmatic than melodic, which the ensemble handles with “actors-who-sing” enthusiasm and vitality. In the first act, Howland, as a very sensitive kindergarten teacher, allows a uniquely individual boy (Tucci) to create his own character in the class production of “Cinderella.” In word and song, Tucci relates the irony of screen love god Charles Boyer’s life. In reality, he was married to the same woman for 44 years, and upon her death by cancer, took his own life. Naughton describes how the power of the joy emanating from a recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony can raise one from the depths of misery to the heights of exultation. And Mandan, as an unwavering curmudgeon, allows his mind to be changed by the industriousness and integrity of a deaf boy. The highlight of the first act comes when the full ensemble relates the true tale of John Pierpont (1786-1866), who was a failure at every profession he attempted teacher, lawyer, merchant, poet, minister, politician, chaplain, clerk. Yet his simple lyrics describing a winter’s sleigh ride, “Jingle Bells,” have made him immortal. The second act opening, a song based on the play’s title, has the full ensemble explaining the totality of life’s truths that Fulghum claims are first introduced during the kindergarten years, such as: share, play fair, don’t hit people, say you’re sorry and always flush. Naughton, Tucci and Mandan offer a touching history of a father and son. Howland, Mandan and Tucci show how an Alzheimer’s-threatened couple of 60 years manage to have Christmas whenever they want it.The fitting climax of this wondrously simple evening of theater has the ensemble relating the tale of the contemporary Greek teacher and philosopher Alexander Popoderos, who worked to achieve a reconciliation between Greece and Germany after World War II. When asked to explain the meaning of life, each actor personifies Popoderos’ reply by taking out a tiny bit of mirror and reflecting a small beam of light off each other and then out into the audience. Julio Martinez

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

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