This bike is oiled and ready to reverse E=mc2!

5:12 PM
By Mithra Ballesteros, First Stage Children's Theater

"It's not really an engine.  If you line up the two fields, you can reverse E = mc2."
- Willy, talking about the mass-time resonator/entropolizer

Photo by Mithra Ballesteros, First Stage Children's Theater

Director Robert Quinlan says that when he first read the original play THE MAGIC BICYCLE, he thrilled at some of the big questions posed in the time travel adventure.  What does it mean to belong to a family?  What is the relationship between money and happiness?  What are the consequences of our unconscious everyday actions on those who come after us?  What does it mean to be responsible for the land on which we live?  The bike, which is a character in its own right, is the theatrical device that forces the audience to confront these big questions.

The bicycle is also an intriguing technological wonder that will likely generate many questions during audience talkbacks.  It is composed of a mishmash of parts from the past and the present.  Its riders jump forward, backwards, and sideways through time frequently. 

To help the audience keep track, the production provides hints, both subtle and overt, that point to location and date.  Some of those clues come in the form of costumes.  Costume Designer Kim Instenes deliberately intensified the differences in style in order to clearly delineate each time period.  At the same time, Ms. Instenes created physical similarities between all the members of the Wasserman family, illustrating that although Jed, Archie, and Willy are separated by over 150 years, their DNA connects them. 

Costume designs for Jedediah, Archie, Willy, Millie, Lilah, Tigg, and Thorlaken by Kim Instenes

In another interesting juxtaposition of modern technology and oldfangled mechanics, Scenic Designer David Minkoff houses television monitors inside clockwork gears.  These screens provide another hint at location and also become the computer display of the bike as the travelers shift and move.  

Minkoff's set design strips away the the back wall of the Todd Wehr, exposing the inner workings of the space and revealing giant industrial cogs and wheels.  The effect is impressive and we believe it will help transport children and adults out of Milwaukee circa 2011 and into a world where the time space continuum is fluid, fantastical, and fun.

THE MAGIC BICYCLE opens in the Todd Wehr Theater on Friday, January 14.  Tickets begin at $11.50.  Click here to order. 

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