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On Theater: Kids rule the stage in ‘Matilda’

Matilda at the Attic Community Theater
“Matilda” is running at the Attic Community Theater in Santa Ana through Dec. 22. The lead role is played by two young actresses: Ava Qsar (pictured) and Leila Woodward. Behind Qsar are castmates Chase Johnson, Elliana Greg, Libby Rue and Angelina Pendleton-Mendez.
(Courtesy of Attic Community Theater)

Kids — seemingly dozens of them, big and small — troop on and off the stage of Santa Ana’s Attic Community Theater in the sardonic musical comedy “Matilda,” inspired by the writings of Roald Dahl who gave us “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Dahl wrote of some very unsympathetic youngsters in “Charlie,” and he killed four of them off in judiciously grotesque fashion. In “Matilda,” he concentrated his venom on the adults, creating the worst parents — and certainly the worst teacher — imaginable.

This would be Miss Trunchbull, headmistress of Matilda’s school and a villain incarnate who refers to her pupils as “filthy maggots” (Dahl must have had a rough childhood). Susan Lopez attacks this role with a vengeance, dominating the schoolroom like a bloodthirsty dragon until she receives her predictable comeuppance.

Matilda at the Attic Community Theater
Miss Trunchbull, played by Susan Lopez in the Attic Community Theater’s production of “Matilda,” is the villainous headmistress at the school. She’s terrorizing students played by Elliana Gregg, Adeline Poon and Leilani Easter.
(Courtesy of Attic Community Theater)
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The role of Matilda herself is shared, alternately, by two young actresses: Ava Qsar and, in the reviewed performance, Leila Woodward. The latter girl excels in talent and energy but encounters difficulty in the area of diction, as do most of her classmates as they attempt the tricky British accents.

Matilda’s parents are a vain, inconsiderate pair — in particular her father, an unscrupulous used car salesman who continually refers to his daughter as a boy. Jeremy Krasovic revels in this role, amplifying his character’s ineptitude, while Katrina Murray flourishes as his narcissistic wife.

Krasovic and Forbes Painter, who plays Matilda’s dull-witted brother, put on a vaudeville act at intermission that the production would be better off without. Deleting it would shave about 15 minutes off the show’s three-hour running time.

Matilda at the Attic Community Theater
Libby Rue plays Bruce, who is celebrating eating the cake in the Attic Community Theater’s “Matilda,” is playing in Santa Ana through Dec. 22.
(Courtesy of Attic Community Theater)

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The girl’s caring teacher, Miss Honey (whose name describes her character), is sweetly enacted by Kristy Thompson, playing a truly good person in Dahl’s nest of vipers. Chase Johnson is fine as Matilda’s trouble-prone classmate Nigel.

Director Susan Gerardi presides skillfully over the organized pandemonium, and choreographer Katie Walsh has elicited rhythmic dancing from her youthful charges, aided immeasurably by music director David Dilorio.

The adaptable set design and the tricky lighting were executed by Jim Huffman. John Espino’s video projections add a sense of location and, when the Russians arrive, translation.

“Matilda” may be a bit over the top for seasoned playgoers, but their kids will eat it up. It’s a treacherous trip into Roald Dahl’s weird world at the Attic Community Theater.

IF YOU GO

What: “Matilda”

Where: Attic Community Theater, 2834 S. Fairview St., Santa Ana (enter from Segerstrom Avenue)

When: Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 until Dec. 22

Cost: $15 to $25

Information: (714) 662-2525; ocact.com

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