Eliet, David F. and Nancy Rosenberg. The Gifts of Obidiah Oak (or The Magic Tree). Anchorage Press, 2002. ISBN 0876024061. 35 pp. Reviewer: Rebecca Hixson Reading Level: Toddler; Preschool; Primary Rating: Outstanding Genre: Plays; Contemporary realistic musical; Subject: Selfishness (character trait)--Juvenile drama; Drama--Reviews; Theme: You find true joy from sharing with others, and being selfless. Production Requirements: The play is written to be performed as simply as possible, with quick transitions between interior and exterior scenes. Acts: One Run Time: 35-40 min. Characters: Minimum of 4 (with doubling) with option of roles for 12 or more. Gender of characters may be adapted if needed. Cast: May be performed by adults for children, or by children for children. Time Period: Contemporary A Little Girl is unwilling to share her toys with anyone. She is so possessive she doesn't want to ever leave her room or go to sleep for fear that someone will steal them, touch them, or even breathe on them. When her mother tells her she must give some of her toys away to those less fortunate than herself or she won't get any new ones for Christmas, the Little Girl takes them into the woods and buries them under an oak tree. Only this is not ordinary oak: this is Obidiah Oak, a magical talking tree, who eventually teaches the Little Girl the true joy of sharing with others. This review is based on reading the play and not actually hearing the music integrated with it. Perhaps because of this reason, the play seems lacking. The characters are generic. They are referred to as "The Little Girl," "Poor Boy," "Mother," etc. This makes the characters one-dimensional. They seem to be merely symbols created to deliver the theme. More exposition about the reasons why the Little Girl was so selfish would have added depth to her character. The change in the Little Girl at the end of the play happens too quickly and seems forced, in order to satisfy the theme of finding true joy from sharing with others. This simplicity of characters could be viewed positively for younger audiences however. Young children would be more able to identify with a "Little Girl," than a specific child with a specific background that differed from their own. In this way, the lack of characterization is a plus for younger audiences. The staging should be simple; the script suggests that a few brightly painted wooden cubes of various sizes can be used to create chairs, tables, a bed, and hills, and that they can also be used to delineate the boundaries of the playing space. If they are built with hinged lids, they can also be used to hold the various props, costume pieces, musical instruments and/or noise-makers required for the show. A long blue cloth can be used for the river; a white painter's drop for snow. Obidiah Oak can be as real or as abstract as the production desires. The important thing is his transformation at the end, when he appears to shine with an inner light.
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