Among other things it does, Metro Theater Company tours play to schools and other meeting places around Missouri and Illinois – and sometimes to places even farther away. At the end of the months-long tours, Metro provides a few performances for the general public, before it starts the next school-year’s tours with new plays.
Metro recently presented its two plays of the past year, Maddi’s Fridge and Eddie & Vinnie, at the Grandel Theatre. Maddi’s Fridge has closed, but Eddie & Vinnie continues this weekend through Sunday, November 5.
Eddie is a young boy who has trouble with his schoolwork. He’s looking forward to summertime freedom with basketball and more Magnatile art creations. But if he doesn’t get his grades up, he will have to go to summer school, which will leave him with much less free time to do what he really wants to do.
Vinnie is Eddie’s pet gecko and Eddie’s best friend. Is Vinnie an imaginary friend? Is Vinnie an imaginary pet gecko? Is he both? They exchange conversations. Vinnie helps Eddie create complex visual creations using the multiple, varied magnetized shapes that Eddie has been given to play with. Vinnie helps him attach them to various metal surfaces, and Jayson M. Lawshee’s projections on the wall of the set of Eddie’s room let us see what Eddie and Vinnie have created. Eddie has named Vinnie after his favorite artist, Leonardo Da Vinci.
But Eddie still has the summer school threat to conquer. He makes friends with Pen, a new student in the school. She agrees to help him write their joint end of the year report, and they work together in his room. She is very patient in working with Eddie, who has trouble putting letters together to make words. Neither she nor Eddie knows the name for Eddie’s problem. It’s dyslexia. Something in his brain, though it is splendid dealing with abstract visual shapes, trips over those letters and struggles to see them the way most other people do, though one in five have the same problem, to a greater or lesser degree, with various causes.
Curiously, Pen never responds to Vinnie. She appears never to see him. Maybe he really is a creation of Eddie’s imagination. Or maybe, being a gecko, Vinnie is very good at using camouflage to hide in the nooks and crannies in Eddie’s room.
Fallon Podrazik has designed the set for Eddie’s room with ample nooks and crannies, as well as furniture and flat surfaces for Vinnie to scamper about on. And as Vinnie, Halley Medrano does scamper about, keeping Eddie company and sometimes distracting him from the school work he should be doing. Caleb D. Long’s Eddie is determined to make his grades, but it is very hard to do, even with Pen’s help, and so much more enjoyable to put the shapes together with Vinnie. Rae Davis’s Pen is very energetic, a pleasure to watch as she creates her character. Davis comes from Kansas City, but I hope she sticks around here to appear on more St. Louis stages.
In addition to designing projections, Jayson M. Lawshee designed the lighting. Renee Garcia designed costumes that enriched each character; I especially liked the suit with waistcoat and tie Vinnie was wearing when we first saw him. AhSa-Ti Nu Tyehimba-Ford designed the sound, Katie Orr managed props, Sarah Frost and Cristie Johnston were Scenic Painters, and Sarah Holland is the Stage Manager.
Director Alicia Reve Like brought to Eddie & Vinnie the clarity and energy of her acting. It is an enjoyable production.