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'A Wrinkle in Time,' live onstage: A celestial romp aimed at kids

When she finally secured a publisher for “A Wrinkle in Time,” Madeleine L’Engle insisted that the book be published on the children’s list.

Good call. Since its publication in 1963, “Wrinkle” has been acclaimed as a children’s classic — the first offering in L’Engle’s “Time Quintet.”

John Glore’s stage adaptation of the book, now at Sierra Madre Playhouse, ingeniously condenses the intricacies of the plot — a dizzying blend of sci-fi and sentimentality that pitches three resourceful kids against an all-encompassing “darkness” that threatens to swallow the universe.

The production serves a dual purpose, as part of the playhouse’s regular season and as the latest offering in the theater’s youth program for local schools. But there’s a wrinkle in this “Wrinkle.” Although director Christian Lebano’s staging is undeniably imaginative and beautifully paced, this is a kids’ show; it may hold more appeal for young audiences than for older theatergoers whose sense of nostalgia has been stoked by director Ava DuVernay’s “Wrinkle” film adaptation currently in production.

Game performers, many of whom are double cast, pitch their performances just a tad over-the-top — the right tack for this sometimes hyperbolic parable.

As 5-year-old Charles Wallace, the brainy boy swept into the control of a pernicious alien entity, Ken Ivy almost made me forget that he’s a decade-plus too old for the part. But perhaps the demands of the role, and the fact that the show will play during school hours, precluded the casting of an age-appropriate child.

Others in the cast that I saw included Cristina Gerla as spunky Meg, Charles’ older sister and eventual rescuer, Ben Horwitz as Meg’s fellow time traveler and love interest, Clayton McInerney as Meg and Charles’ father, held in thrall on a far-flung planet, and Lena Thomas and Mallory Marie Wedding as two interstellar eccentrics who take on human form to help the children navigate deadly perils.

Sean Paxton’s original music captures the piece’s various moods, from the ethereal to the dire, and a superb technical team, including costume designer Vicki Conrad, lighting designer Rebecca Hairston, sound designer Christopher Moscatiello, and set and projection designer Matthew G. Hill, contribute appropriately celestial effects that will appeal to all ages.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

‘A Wrinkle in Time’

Where: Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre

When: 8 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 p.m. Saturdays; ends April 22

Tickets: $30

Information: (626) 355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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