'If You Give a Mouse a Cookie:' Hungry mouse brings laughs to the stage
by: ©2006 OWEN CAREY, Beware: If you take the kids to theater to watch the Boy (Matt Haynes) and the Mouse (Kerry Ryan), they might like it and want to see more plays.

Mice and cookies - what's not to like? Two crucial components of a preshcooler's life come together in Laura Joffe Numeroff and illustrator Felicia Bond's 1985 book, 'If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.' If you commit the title act, the book warns, that mouse is 'going to ask for a glass of milk.'

Less is more in the world of board books, and plot is rightfully sacrificed for a cause-and-effect chain, rather like 'This is the house that Jack built.'

The darn rodent keeps asking for more and more things - straw, some crayons, a mirror, a broom and so on until the little boy suckered into helping him is almost reaching for the Ritalin.

Oregon Children Theatre's production of the adaptation by Jody Davidson is splendid. It starts with a 10-minute tease of the Boy talking, before the curtains pull back to reveal the brightly colored, oversize kitchen set.

Matt Haynes is a solid, if not especially lovable Boy, while the Mouse is played wonderfully by Kerry Ryan. She is puckish, comically elastic and androgynous in that curious way only thespian girls can manage.

The big laughs are all for slapstick moments, which suggests that the script could have been in Klingon for most of last Sunday afternoon's audience. They lapped it up.

Davidson's adaptation adds a lot of filler about the Boy being into adventure comics, which he reads from at length. This threatens to be tedious, but Haynes and Ryan have comic chemistry to spare - as they proved when the mouse's drawing slipped off the stage into the pit, despite Haynes' desperate dive.

They ad-libbed it admirably by tearing off another pre-drawn image from the pad.

At 60 minutes the show is about right for bladders the size of a juice box, and while you could buy the book twice over for the price of a ticket, this is a fine way to introduce kids to the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd.

- Joseph Gallivan

11 a.m. and 2 p.m. SATURDAY, 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. SUNDAY, through Oct. 15, Portland Center for the Performing Arts, Newmark Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway, 503-228-9571, $12-$23

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