This Play's New Kid at School Can Help or Hurt With Her Superpowers

Katie Pelensky, left, and Lillian Solange in Coeurage Theatre's The Sparrow
Katie Pelensky, left, and Lillian Solange in Coeurage Theatre's The Sparrow
Photo by John Klopping

It’s not surprising that the House Theatre of Chicago created a Windy City sensation in 2007 with The Sparrow, its devised dance melodrama about a troubled high school heroine concealing psychokinetic powers. The trope of the teen outcast with secret supernatural “gifts” has proved a box office bonanza since the Silver Age of comic books.

Orphaned Emily Book (the fine Katie Pelensky) comes to rural Spring Farm High School a decade after she was the sole survivor of a bus accident that wiped out her second-grade class and traumatized the community.

Though she is not exactly welcomed with open arms by bullying classmates or suspicious townspeople, a charismatic biology teacher (John McKetta) and the popular head cheerleader, Jenny (Lillian Solange), take the socially awkward girl under their wing to help her gain acceptance.

When Emily is eventually forced to publically reveal her powers by saving Jenny’s life, the girls suddenly find their social status at the school reversed.

Emily (the fine Katie Pelensky) is ultimately forced to reveal her powers.
Emily (the fine Katie Pelensky) is ultimately forced to reveal her powers.
John Klopping

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That’s when Chris Mathews, Jake Minton and Nathan Allen’s script finally kicks in as it pivots on the question of whether Emily’s abilities truly make her Supergirl or a potential Carrie.

Unfortunately for a show that is essentially a musical without songs, the murkiness of director Joseph V. Calarco’s lyrical stage imagery and fuzzily focused production numbers tend to obscure rather than take over the narrative, which ultimately prevents this Sparrow from ever taking flight.

Coeurage Theatre Company at Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; through Nov. 21. (323) 944-2165, coeurage.org.


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