Review by Holden Larson, age 9, with help from his mom Cheryl, PDX Kids Calendar users
Before we got to the Winningstad Theatre, my friend Raymond and I weren’t quite sure what to expect of the Oregon Children’s Theatre production of Locomotion. I knew that the play was about a boy who learned how to deal with his feelings through writing and that part of the story would be told in beat poetry. So I was pretty interested.
When we arrived at the theatre, we were given a mini composition journal, something I am very familiar with from school. There was a small doodle of headphones on it, and the subject was “My Journal.” I thought this was a good way to introduce us to the personal stories that the main character was going to share with us in the play.
We went in to take our seats. The theatre was small so every seat felt close to the stage and the action. The set looked like a junkyard with graffiti on the wall, broken heaters, and a ladder to a high perch. It was interesting to look at and had a lot of details.
The play starts with Lonnie arriving at a foster home. By folding out a table the “junk yard” became a kitchen. With that, the play took off. The story is about Lonnie and his sister Lilly, and how he struggles with the sadness and loss he feels after his parents die in a house fire. The play is not told in chronological order, so sometimes Lonnie is seven and his parents are alive, and sometimes he is 11, living with his foster mother, separated from his sister. The pace was fast, so you don’t want to miss a move, or a word. The characters change from person to person, and from place to place quickly. If you look away, Lonnie might age from seven to eleven in a blink of an eye.
While there are eight characters in the play, there are only three actors. Lonnie Collins Motion (Locomotion) played by Tyler Andrew Jones, Lonnie’s mother, played by Andrea White who also plays Lonnie’s foster mother Miss Edna, his teacher, Ms. Marcus and his little sister, Lilly. Lonnie’s friend at school Enrique, played by Jarrel Newsome, is also his daddy and a man from the foster agency. Each character has a something special about them to give you a clear clue as to who they are playing. They change a sweater or shirt, or they have a different way of standing or speaking. The actors were very good at changing from one person to another and staying in that character.
Locomotion made me feel both happy and sad at the same time. There were funny moments, like when Enrique is being encouraged by his teacher Ms. Marcus to “write about what he knows,” and he raps “Hip Hop Rules the World.” And there were really sad parts, like when Lonnie learns that his friend is in the hospital and sick. There were a lot of feelings that came up during the play; loneliness, fear, happiness, pride, and encouragement to name just a few.
The play was very emotional, not only through the words of the author, Jaqueline Woodson (who was in the audience that day), but also because of things like the lighting and staging. Spotlights changed from big and bright, to tiny small and star-like, and the staging made you feel how far apart the characters were – like when Lonnie stands near his sick friend, but they are not in the same room or looking at each other.
In the end the play was a good way to look at how feelings can be expressed through writing and can help a person understand things better. It may be hard for younger kids to appreciate the story, or to follow the fast pace. But for older kids (grades 5-12) you should really see how this story is told. Then read the book!
Cheryl and her family were given complimentary passes to see Locomotion. They were not compensated for this review.