Review of Tom Sawyer at the Alpha Players

    Being Missourians, we’re all familiar with Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Director and Set Designer Stephen Chamineak made use of that familiarity in the recent production of the play Tom Sawyer at The Alpha Players of Florissant. The writer of the play, Tim Kelly, had done the same in his adaptation of the novel, condensing and combining and omitting incidents to get essential elements and a credible story crammed into the two hours’ traffic of our stage. 

    Chamineak designed a simple unit set with a fence running off stage right and a fence running off stage left and between them a moderate-sized block platform. With the help of Jessica Stone’s properties added as needed, Bob Veatch’s lights ebbing and flowing, Barbara Langa’s costumes fitting period and character, Brian Borgstede’s sound design echoing off the river, and with the great help of the audience’s imaginations, the production was able to follow the script in enacting most of the familiar scenes from the novel. The platform served as the island where Tom and his pals Huck Finn and Joe Harper played hooky and organized their pirate gang, and the church balcony where they watched their own funeral. Perhaps the best-known incident, in which Tom persuades his buddies to pay him for the “privilege” of taking over his assigned task of painting the fence, missed its impact because the boys kneeled upstage of the platform to do the painting, barely seen, and some audience members were heard wondering what happened to the fence-painting scene. The adventures in the cave were probably too much for either playwright Kelly or the average theatre company, but their thrills were incorporated in scenes set outside the village jail and back again in the cemetery. And Tom and Huck still wound up with the gold. 

    In a solid cast that played it just about broadly enough, Khristian Duncan was Tom, Dominic Bottom his buddy Huck, and Selah Harris his girlfriend Becky Thatcher. Mercadez Whitehead played Tom’s Aunt Polly, Tanya Burns her companion the Widow Douglas, and Jessica Stone was Aunt Polly’s daughter Cousin Mary. Roben and Luke Harris, parents of Selah Harris, played Becky’s parents. Matthew Schmidt played Tom’s pal Joe Harper, Katelyn Moody played Joe’s mother, and Lucy Mathis his sister. Harrison Kolmer loomed large as the antagonist Injun Joe, Karl Bockemeier was his drunken sidekick Muff Potter, and Blake Barnes played the grave-robbing Doctor Robinson, killed and robbed by Injun Joe. Barnes also played Schoolmaster Dobbins and the Rev. Mr. Sprague. Aurora Doris was Amy Lawrence, Tom’s first love and Becky’s rival. Sally Walters, Jared and Xavier Collins, and Makenna Whitehead played the other inhabitants of St. Petersburg, Missouri, that we met in this dramatic adaptation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at The Alpha Players of Florissant.

    —Bob Wilcox 

    Photo by Sharon Cotner