“The Phantom Tollbooth” is a Hit

By Mara Shapiro

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The Whetherman (Ruderman) talks to Milo (Albaum). Photo compliments of the theatre department.

Not many people have heard of “The Phantom Tollbooth.” As Theatre Director Andrew Sinclair said, “It’s one of those hidden gems.” Based on the book by Susan Nanus, the play really is a gem for people of all ages. No matter if you’re 5 or 55, you will laugh and sympathize with the main character, Milo (played by freshman Scott Albaum), a little boy who finds that even watching T.V. and reading books has become boring.

The opening of “The Phantom Tollbooth” starts with Milo complaining about how bored he is with his life while a group of human wind-up dolls hover around him. Somehow, these dolls (played by the whole cast) are responsible for Milo getting a magical tollbooth in the mail. From here on out Milo goes on the wildest adventure of his life.

First, he meets the Whetherman, playedy by senior Aaron Ruderman, in the land of expectations. The Whetherman can best be described as the Mad Hatter from “Alice in Wonderland” because of his crazy rhymes and riddles. Next, Milo goes to the land of the Doldrums, where “nothing happens and nothing changes.” Basically it’s Lazyville where everyone sleeps and nobody ever thinks. It actually doesn’t sound like too bad of a place, come to think about it.  While in the Doldrums he meets the Watchdog, or Tok as she likes to be called, played by sophomore Lila Gilbert.

Tok and Milo proceed on to Dictionopolis, a land that is entirely devoted to words. One can eat rigamaroles, synonym buns, etc. While in the land  Milo is enriched with a history lession about Dictionopolis. It turns out that the king Azaz, played by sophomore Kyle McCaffrey, got into a huge argument with the ruler of Digitopolis, the Mathemagician (senior Rachel Prale) about the importance of numbers versus words and letters. Because of their argument, the two princesses Rhyme and Reason, played by senior Lauren Langer and freshman Sherlina Chauhan, were banished to the Castle of Air. Azaz sends Milo, Tok, a basket of words, and their new narcisistic friend Humbug, played by senior Steven Czajkowski,  on a mission to Digitopolis to try to convice the Mathemagician for help to free the princesses.

While in Digitoplis, a land entirely devoted to numbers, Milo and friends receive a magic pencil and then make their way to the Castle. On the way however, they run into the crazy scientist Kakaphoneous(with a K) A. Discord (sophomore Cameron Broderick), a man entirled devoted to loud noises. He gives Milo a bottle of laughter because it’s too pleasant for his liking. The trio then proceeds to the land of ignorance, where they run into the the Senses Taker, played by sophomore Daniel Bedoya. After running from both him and demons, armed with the magic pencil and basket of words, the princesses are freed and Digitopolis and Dictionopolis are at peace again. Milo then returns home and learns the lesson that a lot can happen in a short amount of time, and that he should value the time that he does have.

I loved this play. It really wasn’t just for little kids. I personally was always an English person, so math has never been enjoyable for me. Little kids seem to make this decision at an early age, so it was quite relatable. The costumes were cute and the screetches were perfect for little kids. The Spelling Bee, played by senior Julia Zasso, was delightful with her passion for spelling. The witty puns and rhymes reminded me a lot of “Alice in Wonderland;””The Phantom Tollbooth” is like the intellectual equivalent. Many life lessons were learned, such as how time goes by so fast and that sometimes compromises are necessary in life, or that once someone asks you to spell one word there’s an endless supply of other words to spell. Overall,the cast and crew put on an excellent show and I can’t wait for Sinclair’s  next production!