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Shel Silverstein’s Play on Words

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Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic are among the quirky and beloved children’s books written and illustrated by the late Shel Silverstein. And this year marks the 50th Anniversary of his most popular book of all time, The Giving Tree, which has been translated in more than 30 languages. From it, school kids the world over learn a valuable lesson about giving of one’s self.

But theater-goers to his adults-only play will learn a different take on that concept. For example, Buy One, Get One Free (one of the show's 10 sketches) presents in complete rhyming verse the puzzling dilemma of whether choosing two hookers for the price of one is a bargain at all.

Silverstein wrote more than 100 one-act plays.  - COURTESY OF THEATRE ON THE SQUARE
  • Courtesy of Theatre on the Square
  • Silverstein wrote more than 100 one-act plays.

An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein is comprised of this and nine other complete sketches. One other is performed in rhyming verse, while the remaining eight are presented in free verse that’s easily recognizable as Silverstein’s voice.

These acted-out tales by the famed children’s book author are definitely not small-fry fodder for story time, but are thoroughly enjoyed by grown-ups that grew up reading his words.

“It’s a little irreverent. There’s no nudity, but the language is adult, that’s for sure,” says Lori Raffel, Theatre on the Square Director of Development.

She explains that while Silverstein was perhaps best known for his children’s books, this songwriter and playwright was a regular cartoonist for Playboy magazine during its hey days from 1957 to the mid ’70s.

As for this play, “It’s just hilarious,” Raffel adds. “He just makes the everyday super funny.”

Silverstein's cartoons appeared regularly in Playboy magazine from 1957 through the '70s, though he's most famous as his quirky kids' books, such as Where the Sidewalk Ends. - PHOTO BY MIKE POTTER
  • Photo by Mike Potter
  • Silverstein's cartoons appeared regularly in Playboy magazine from 1957 through the '70s, though he's most famous as his quirky kids' books, such as Where the Sidewalk Ends.

An ideal production for anyone with a limited attention span and a lot on their mind, it offers plenty of entry points. “His sick sense of humor is a great relief, and maybe that’s what people need right now,” she says. “And none of the sketches are longer than 10 minutes; so they’re perfect for anyone with a short attention span. You don’t have to think too hard; just sit back and laugh.”

The small cast of An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein winds its way through the show's 10 hilarious sketches.  - COURTESY OF THEATRE ON THE SQUARE
  • Courtesy of Theatre on the Square
  • The small cast of An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein winds its way through the show's 10 hilarious sketches.

TOTS is the first theatre in Indiana to put on all 10 plays in one show. Each is a stand-alone sketch -- from the bit about the about two-for-the-price-of-one hookers to a skit about taking a man hostage who’s committed an atrocity against humankind with his insufferable motivational motto.

Raffel’s favorite is The Lifeboat is Sinking about a man and woman who sit safely on their bed, while the wife forces her husband to imagine they are on a sinking boat in the middle of a terrible storm. Waves fill the vessel with water. There are no life jackets, so the moral quandary ensues: Who among them, their kids and mother-in-law deserves to survive, and who gets tossed overboard.

Raffel laughs just thinking about it. “It’s hilarious and thought-provoking at the same time,” she says. “It seems to be the one that people talk about most afterward.”

The show, which runs through this Saturday (April 4th) has sold out the past two weekends. So, due to popular demand, another performance has been added for this Thursday (April 2nd) at 8 p.m.

For more info on this and other TOTS productions, call (317) 685-8687 or visit the website www.TOTS.org.

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