Tibbits answers the question for kids: “Where’s the other sock?”
COLDWATER, Mich.—The plants in The Plant that Ate Dirty Socks, the final offering this summer from Tibbits Popcorn Theatre, not only have peculiar appetites, but they dance the Macarena, throw shade at enemies of the children who own them, and provide comfort and even a little companionship like any good pet.
They are, undoubtedly, the most animated, amusing, life-like entities on stage during this one-hour show, and Director Charles Burr cast them well. Unfortunately, the actors who play them only fully appear in the second act—when they come alive wearing foliage-strewn green spandex body suits with green makeup on their hands and faces. Drew Porrett as Stanley and Michelle Carter as Fluffy are fully committed. And even though they (almost) don’t speak, they are wonderfully expressive and communicative, clued in to the other actors as well as the audience.
The story is based on a children’s book by Nancy McArthur in which two brothers, one messy and one an annoying “neatnik,” discover their budding houseplants thrive on eating socks. It’s a lazy solution to tidying a cluttered room with the bonus of driving parents crazy. With a little coaxing, mom and dad agree to keep Stanley and Fluffy supplied with tasty discount socks, though shenanigans ensue when Michael enters Stanley in the science fair and Norman publishes an op-ed about plants making great pets.
It’s a thin script, Little Shop of Horrors-lite without the violence, suspense or great songs, and it’s a thin production, with minimal design: lights are basically on or off, there’s no ambient music or sound beyond a handful of sound effects including a door lock and a cell phone, and an unimaginative set consists of two wooden bed frames on either side of a dresser stage right and a table and chairs stage left.
The acting isn’t any more inspired, and the wooden dialogue and story without much rhyme, reason, or moral doesn’t help matters. Aside from the plants, who are a revelation, the other actors, for the most part, appear to be delivering lines to the audience rather than living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.
The audience of children, however, were appreciative and showed it with giggles and claps, particularly in response to Porrett and Carter as well as the proverbial Chekhov’s gun, which in this case is a trigger-happy water gun.
If the children are amused, is that enough? They may not yet know to demand it, but if they are to keep coming back, if we are to cultivate continuing generations of theatre goers, then they must be offered an experience that is worth returning to again and again.