Coterie debuts world premiere of ‘No Talking’

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Fifth grade boys and girls do not always get along, in fact, they argue just like siblings at times, but in one specific story, “No Talking,” they decided to take three days to settle a dispute as to who does or does not talk the most, which is the crux of the world premiere production now in progress at Kansas City’s renown children’s theater, The Coterie, in Kansas City’s Crown Center.

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Returning Coterie collaborator, Laurie Brooks, adapted “No Talking” to the stage and for its Coterie debut. The Coterie said that Brooks is the playwright behind several successful Coterie commissions and world premieres. “No Talking” is a story by Andrew Clements, best-selling author of many books for young readers, including his debut novel, Frindle.

“No Talking” is a “one trick pony” as the story only has one plot line–who can say the least words for three days, and all spoken words over three in a row count against the gender who says them. The story is cute for children, and they will enjoy the story line. What adults will enjoy are the adult characters while younger audiences will probably focus more on the younger ones.

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Always expect The Coterie to find the right pieces that work for their vast audience age range. “No Talking” is no exception. The story is easy, cute, and fast-paced. This is the first theater to produce the play, so future productions could be different. The story could be trimmed to keep it tighter. The show runs just over an hour, and would probably keep younger audiences focused better if it were just under an hour.

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The adult cast teams two brilliant performances by Vanessa Severo and Brad Shaw. Severo concocted a sextet of characters from principal, to female vocal music teacher, to an elderly science teacher, and more. Shaw delivers a hilarious Mahatma Ghandi that not all the other characters can see or communicate.  Both can steal any scene.  They are charming characters.

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The stage set is well constructed with a carousel that rotates to signify scene changes. The backgrounds are bright and colorful and the piece moves quickly and easily to denote changesof classrooms and situations.

The humor of the piece comes as the students try to figure ways to speak sentences and answer questions with only three words. They struggle, yet find creative ways to respond to most questions in three words or less. The dialogue is creative, fun, and imaginative.

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The cast of “No Talking” features Vanessa Severo (as Actor Extraordinaire), Brad Shaw (as Gandhi), Jacob Valle (as Dave), Rasheedat “Ras” Badejo (as Lynsey), Zach Faust (as Jason), and Callie Rodina (Emily). The artistic and production company includes Jeff Church (director), William J. Christie (production stage manager), Scott Hobart (set designer/technical director), Jarrett Bertoncin (lighting designer), Georgianna Londré Buchanan (costume designer), David Kiehl (sound designer), and Danielle Walsh (production assistant), as provided by The Coterie.

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“The Coterie’s world premiere production of ‘No Talking’ will run approximately 65 minutes with no intermission and will be best appreciated by families with ages eight and older. The production is funded in part by Missouri Arts Council, ArtsKC Fund, and Theater League. Additional funding was provided by Joseph Appelt,” The Coterie said.

Tickets can be purchased at the box office, by phone, or through The Coterie website.

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