By Todd Babiak (with help from his daughters, Avia and Esmé
Onions and Garlic (Stage 11, Studio Theatre)
It isn’t easy to be an onion seller in a town full of onions. Our hero pushes his cart of aromatic root vegetables from house to house. The kopeks are scarce, of course, and it’s all made worse by his cruel capitalist of a brother.
This could seem a rather obvious set-up, preparing children and parents for a morality play that’s a little bit too Vidalia for anyone’s taste. While playwrights Paula Simons and Celia Taylor based Onions and Garlic on a folk tale, they added so much knowingness and delightful absurdity we forget we’re in the land of easy answers.
Dave Clarke is both the songwriter and the on-stage musician, bringing the “plinky plinky” and bantering with the cast.
Onions and Garlic jumps with tap dancing, musical numbers, funny accents, a fine collection of Yiddish insults, and gratuitous references to the green onion cake. Like a well-spiced dish it finds a magic place that works for five year-olds, tweens, and parents who are occasionally wounded by children’s theatre.
The cast is uniformly excellent. Rory Turner, the king of Sunny Leonie, is a boisterous riot, a lovely contrast to our modest hero. Onions and Garlic is a gentle, clever, goodhearted follow-up to Taylor’s adaptation of Molière’s The Flying Doctor at last year’s Edmonton Fringe.