Seasoned beef on a bed of shredded sharp cheese, with tomato, sour cream and hot sauce. One hard shell and one soft. Or fish, with slaw and citrus. Or maybe fresh cooked black beans, yum. That’s how I like my tacos.
Food preferences are a funny thing. I know of exactly one person who doesn’t like tacos, and it’s because of physics – eating a thing that contains smaller things, where those things might fall out of his hand while taking a bite. That’s a little uncommon, but fair.
Dragons, I’ve learned, simply adore tacos – except with hot sauce. It gives them gas. Join the club, monsters.
This conversation, which admittedly borders on the asinine the more time you spend with it, is at the heart of Theatre of Youth’s latest offering, “Dragons Love Tacos.” Catchy title. It's based on Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri's book, when you're searching for a literary reference.
If it’s possible to discuss culinary psychology with 4-year-olds, this show tries. Bless their heart. It’s not about flavor profiles so much, but the discussion of personal preference, of respecting other people’s tastes and also of trying new things. This is important to discuss with children, the abstract idea that we are all wired differently, and that everyone’s particular flavor is worthy.
In signature TOY fashion, and under the direction of Kyle Loconti, the show is also about having fun. Silly, frivolous, dance-in-your-pants fun. I counted at least three times throughout the hour-long, intermission-less show, when the characters – a homework-procrastinating young boy, his floppy dog, a television host come to life, and four friendly dragons who just happened to drop by – break into a dance party. What else does one do with such a scenario but dance?
Those dragons are at times rambunctious, assertive, sensitive and silly. In their crayon-colored costumes, with “Lion King”-inspired headpieces designed by house designer Ken Shaw, they exude a simplified range of emotions – perfect to validate the unexpectedly varied reactions most little ones explode with on a daily basis. (Ask any 3-year-old what he or she wants to eat and their preference will often turn absurd once seated at the table.)
Melinda Capeles, Joe Isgar, Daniel Torres and Alexandria Watts are mad fun as the dragons, and more than a little electrified in those breakout party scenes, as if their tacos came with battery fluid. Their coded personas might remind parents of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (or even the Care Bears) – there’s a favorite for everybody.
Alejandro Pérez is a lively and frantic young Robbie, the boy who desperately needs a topic to write about for school and who turns to TV for inspiration. What a kid. (Carlos Maggiolo Pérez alternates in the role.) That’s when a catchy TV host – played with great persuasive verve and winking wit by Dan Urtz – pops out of the television and educates Robbie about the life and times of dragons. He’s a “dragonologist,” which you can find on LinkedIn if you look hard enough. Leroy, the requisite human-sized dog, is energetically performed by Preston Williams, though hardly central to the plot.
I mean, to Leroy’s credit: There basically is no plot. Which is good, since it’s hard to hear some of the dialogue in this theater’s historically difficult acoustics. Don’t worry, though – all the bases are covered. It’s literally dragons dancing about tacos. At one point they set the house on fire. What else do you need?
"Dragons Love Tacos"
3 stars (out of 4)
Presented by Theatre of Youth through June 1 at the Allendale Theatre, 203 Allen St. Recommended for ages 4 and older. Performances are at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays (1 and 4 p.m. June 1; "sensory friendly" performance on May 19). Tickets are $28-$15 (box office, 884-4400, theatreofyouth.org).