This Oz trip hits the mark

The Rainbow Company Youth Theatre production of “Ozma of Oz: A Tale of Time,” a stage adaption of the third Oz novel by L. Frank Baum opens on a minimalist set that consists of a stack of rainbow-colored suitcases, a wardrobe shaped box, a bucket and mop and chains hanging from the risers. A child seated behind me asked, “What is the bucket for? What are the chains for?” The child’s father answered wisely, “I don’t know, but we’ll find out.”

We immediately find out the purpose of the bucket when sailors Sam and Steve (robustly played by Severina Nina Mijan and Mason Alexander Stanley) begin to swab the deck of a ship on which Dorothy and her Uncle Henry are sailing to Australia. Dorothy is now 13 with a teenaged-sized attitude. She would just as soon the ship turn right around and head back in the general direction of Kansas and the high school football hero she left behind. Morgan Johnson plays Dorothy with a believable adolescent headstrongness. Her simple blue dress and red slippers evoke the blue gingham and ruby slippers of the younger Dorothy.

Uncle Henry is not quite his younger self either. Wheelchair bound, he is determined to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Captain Cook, and discover Australia for himself. He needs Dorothy’s help, and she discovers how much she needs him when in a cyclone they are shipwrecked in the land of Oz. Thomas Dyer as Uncle Henry is comically poignant as the only old person in a land where time has stopped.

The storm is marvelously staged with just a few curtains and some lights (lighting design is by student designer Oliver Kompst, sound by Joel Ruud). Set designer Kris Van Riper accomplishes a marvelously complicated Oz dominated by a broken grandfather clock — hence the hanging clock gear chains. The technical crew become characters in the play as they create onstage the play’s many wonderful special effects.

Dorothy and Uncle Henry are greeted by the Wheelers, a charming group of skateboard punks on a variety of wheels who hail the wheelchair-bound Uncle Henry as their deliverer from the evil Gnome-King, Roquat.

Zach Mercer plays the amusingly villainous Roquat as a spoiled brat assisted by his bully Feldspar (the marvelously physical Alix Locke-Wells). Costume designer Mariya Radeva-Nedyalkova made the rock gnomes adorable monsters.

Director Sean Critchfield perfectly utilizes the charm of his young actors to ask a question for which every adult in the audience would like the answer, “How did that old man get in the mirror?”