Monsters In The Closet

Wanda's Monster

One of the perks of working for Kidz Central Station is being in the know about all the incredible kid-focused activities in NYC. Armed with up our up-to-date knowledge on what’s happening around town, Lauren Pohl and I took advantage of a recent warm Sunday afternoon to sit in an air conditioned theater with our four year olds to see a performance of Wanda’s Monster playing at The Vineyard Theater in Union Square.

Right around two years old, kids can develop a fear of the dark. Poignantly, it often seems to parents that these fears manifest themselves overnight. As soon as their little imaginations kick in, some kids start to envision the noises they’d heard only the night before as big hairy creatures hiding under the bed. It’s precisely this fear that comes to life and is set to music in this fun-filled performance.

The basic arc of this one-hour play follows young Wanda as she ‘discovers’ a monster in her closet. At first Wanda is terrified, but after receiving advice from her Granny she starts to believe that maybe the monster stays in her closet because HE is the one who is shy and frightened. By putting herself in his fuzzy oversized shoes and considering how the monster might feel, Wanda tackles her fears and reaches out to make a new friend. Naturally, the monster slowly overcomes his own fears and a beautiful friendship is born. Empathizing with others and accepting them for who they are, no matter how purple or fuzzy, is the lesson kids hopefully takeaway from the play.

At first, most kids in the audience were wide-eyed and anxious as Wanda’s monster made his entrance. The actors clearly understand this and the monster dances and shakes in exaggerated silly movements giving kids a chance to see that he isn’t frightening, but fun and goofy instead. But even kids who are not afraid of the dark, like my son, were silent and unsure what to make of the monster initially.

As I watched the reactions on the faces around us throughout the play I was reminded how children, even those the same age, often react to the same situation differently. My son was laughing and/or dancing throughout most of the performance, while Lauren’s daughter was holding on her to favorite stuffed bunny and her mom’s hand most of the way through. And yet, after the show when everyone is invited to meet all the characters and shake their hands, take pictures or ask questions, it was my son who wanted nothing to do with them and Lauren’s daughter, with her own fears sufficiently tackled, who was eager and ready to join them for the picture above.

They advertise that the play is for kids aged two to ten, but I’d say the sweet spot is likely the four to six set. Thankfully, the music is by Laurie Berkner so parents can enjoy the music as well as the delight on their kid’s face throughout.

The performance is showing through September 8 in Manhattan at The Vineyard’s Dimson Theatre (108 East 15th Street). Tickets available online at www.WandasMonster.com or by calling (646) 601-1406.

Author: Alix Ford