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Andy’s Summer Playhouse presents “The Lost World”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

By ERIC STANWAY

Correspondent

This Saturday night, Paleozoic fever will be hitting Wilton, complete with dinosaurs, cavemen, explorers and even aliens.

That’s when Andy’s Summer Playhouse will present its own take on “The Lost World,” a theater production loosely based on the classic by “Sherlock Holmes” creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In that tale, the flamboyant paleontologist Professor Challenger leads an expedition into the depths of an extinct volcano, whereupon they discover a primeval jungle, literally teeming with prehistoric creatures.

In this version, the Lost World in question is literally under the bed of two twins.

There, they stumble upon a hidden world, lost to time, where dinosaurs still thrive. Of course, they’re hesitant to tell anybody about it, doubting that anyone would believe them. So it stays their secret.

“The story basically follows these children as they grow up, and what they do with this lost world,” said Jaimie Harrow, managing director of Andy’s Summer Playhouse. “The way the twins interact with it alters as they grow and change. I won’t give too much away, but it creates a corollary between the process of growing up and the imaginary – or perhaps real – world under their bed.”

This production is the brain child of New York-based multimedia artist and former “Andy’s Kid” Jared Mezzocchi, who wrote and directs the show.

“It’s a wonderful story, augmented by Jared’s use of film,” said Harrow. “His specialty is integrating multimedia technology into the performance. Jared will often take advantage of projection, so there will be moments where clips are projected onto the stage. But there are no projection surfaces – the kids move items around themselves, with the images projected onto them.”

The clips in question are taken from the film “The Lost World” (1925), with special effects courtesy of Willis O’Brien, who also oversaw the production of the original “King Kong.”

“I really like the subtle approach Jared brings to his work,” said Harrow. “It’s a way to integrate the technology without hitting you over the head with it.”

Andy’s Summer Playhouse occupies the site of the original Wilton Town Hall, built in 1752. The present building, constructed in 1860, served as the Town Hall until 1883, when the facility was moved downtown. The building then served as everything from a Citizens Hall to a schoolhouse, until it was purchased by Andy’s in 1985.

The theater was founded in the summer 1971 by two teachers from the Mascenic Regional School, Margaret Sawyer and William Williams, who wanted to extend the high school theatrical experience into the summer months. The “Andy” in question was C.W. Anderson, a beloved summer resident of Mason, who wrote and illustrated stories about horses and children, many featuring images of local boys and girls.

“In 2008, Andy’s sort of changed hands,” said Harrow. “The people running the playhouse now are actually Andy’s alumni – myself included.”

The lure of the Playhouse is so far-reaching that many former “Andy’s Kids” come back to keep the dream alive for others.

“Jared was an ‘Andy’s Kid’ just like the rest of us,” said Harrow. “Despite his busy schedule in New York, he comes back to write and produce shows for us. This is actually the third year he’s done it.”

Despite its connections with Conan Doyle’s fantasy, Harrow stresses that this isn’t anything approaching an adaptation.

“We’re using the concept and ideas in “The Lost World” to tell a story about growing up,” he said. “Everything we do at Andy’s is completely original. We take existing concepts or stories and then we reinvent them.”

Not one to sit still, Harrow is already looking forward to the next production.

“We have “Kung Fu Beach Party” coming up in August,” he said. “It’s going to be super fun. It’s kind of a 1960s beach party movie with original music that mimics the genre from the era. There’ll be all sorts of different styles of 1960s music in it, so the feel will be very familiar to adults.”

But that’s in the future. Meanwhile, we still have to weather the onslaught of prehistoric beasties as they rampage through Wilton this weekend.

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