My mother loved the work of Lebanese-American artist Kahlil Gibran, especially his verses on various topics contained in “The Prophet.” The section titled “On Children” begins like this:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
It’s the tale of a boy who lives in the woods with his overprotective parents, though all the other families live in colonies. They’ve got lots of rules, all designed to keep the family safe.
Son Lyf (Nathan Dobson) seems content to follow them until he encounters an adventurous young girl named Meta (Kaleena Newman), who fuels his curiosity with tales of flight training. She’s Lyf’s first friend, and she’s a good one.
Meta has a thing for physics, often pondering the wonders and workings of aerodynamics, while Lyf has a gift for imagery and story. I love the deviation from “boys do science” and “girls do words” type thinking
Meta has a twin named Taur (John Moum) who’s quite the bully, and seems to fancy himself an investigative journalist. He uncovers handmade wings inside the workshop Lyf’s father has kept locked for years, and makes a startling discovery.
Lyf’s parents are “dodos” — a name given to those who can’t fly. When Taur starts name-calling, Meta insists that he stop. She teaches Lyf to fly as his anxious Mom (Kate Haas) and hopeful Dad (Jon Gentry) look on. “I’m here,” says Mom, “I’m always here.”
“With Two Wings” is a profound reminder that flying and falling is better than never trying to fly. That bystanders should defend those who are bullied. That some family rules may need to evolve over time. That growth rarely happens without taking risks.
It’s a lovely one hour piece that speaks to both children and adults, making good use of humor and never taking itself too seriously. “With Two Wings” elevates curiosity, individual differences, loyal friendships and trusting your instincts.
The cast of five is superb. Dobson’s Lyf is innocent and earnest, while Newman’s Meta is bright-eyed and confident. Gentry’s Dad is optimistic, while Haas’ Mom is a worrier. Moum’s Taur is a perfect portrayal of everything we love to hate about tabloid types.
The “With Two Wings” set designed by Kimb Williamson is simple — mainly nesting materials inspired by the works of artist Andy Goldworthy. So is lighting design by Tim Monson and sound design by Christopher Neumeyer. Both serve the story well without distracting from its beauty.
The most intriguing visual elements are costumes by D. Daniel Hollinghead, who designed the mechanism used for characters’ wings, and puppets. Thanks to puppets atop long sticks, no one has to pull a Cathy Rigby over the TCA stage.
“With Two Wings” is rich in dialogue we can all relate to. The play’s true beauty rests in its ability to inspire us to reflect on our own experiences with launching and letting go.
I got a little teary-eyed as Lyf learned to fly, thinking of our daughter Lizabeth being cast in her first theater production with Pace University, because I know Childsplay played a part in giving her wings.
I hope you’ll be just as inspired by Childsplay’s interpretation of Negri’s tender tale, and more reflections from “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran…
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
Note: Childsplay performs “With Two Wings” through Feb. 5 at Tempe Center for the Arts, and the play is available for school tours (grades 1-6) Feb. 7-May 25. Click here to learn more, and here to explore Childsplay photos on Facebook.
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