Review: Take the Fantastical "Journey Around My Bedroom" with Your Favorite Young Minds

 Journey Around My Bedroom

Written by Dianne Nora

Directed by Jaclyn Biskup

Presented by New Ohio Theatre for Young Minds

December 26, 2020-January 10, 2021 live via Zoom and January 11-February 11, 2021 on demand

Photo by New Ohio Theatre

In 1790, French military and government official Xavier de Maistre penned the parodic travel narrative Voyage Autour de ma Chambre (Voyage Around My Room; published 1794) while under house arrest for dueling. A sequel, Exp√©dition Nocturne Autour de ma Chambre (Night Voyage Around My Room), followed in 1825. While this might seem like an unlikely point of departure for a play aimed at children, many children's lives must feel like a form of house arrest right now, and Dianne Nora takes inspiration from de Maistre's works for Journey Around My Bedroom, a charming, whimsical puppet play about a girl, the power of her imagination, and her embracing of her own courage. 

That girl is Xavi (Ashley Kristeen Vega), and when we first meet her, her mother (Laura Kay) is trying to get her to stop playing video games (Xavi's response that she just needs to finish this level will be familiar to some audience members). Her mother, of course, wins out, and, in the play's gentle acknowledgment of the pandemic, she points out that while she knows that Xavi misses her friends, they both have their health, and there is plenty of fun stuff in her room. Eventually, Xavi opens a copy of A Journey Around My Room, and de Maistre (Starr Kirkland) himself emerges, a steampunk-looking, French-accented, self-aggrandizing explorer who promptly crashes his hot air balloon. After a bit of a rocky start in which he plants his flag to claim her room and fights a duel with her (stylus vs. sword), he asks Xavi to show him the terrain of her room, kicking off a series of imaginative adventures in which she keeps having to rescue the great explorer, making her the brave hero of each episode. 
Photo by New Ohio Theatre

The rescues involve moments of audience participation as well, with audience members asked to turn on their cameras and help Xavi, a dynamic that will be familiar to any viewers of Blue's Clues or Dora the Explorer. Participation is optional, but many younger viewers will doubtless find attractive the clear liveness and interactivity of the performance, which starts with winning emcee Kirkland asking the audience some simple questions before the narrative itself begins. The downloadable program also includes pages for audience members to make their own puppets and treasure maps of their rooms, which they are encouraged to post and hashtag if they wish. 

Photo by New Ohio Theatre
The main characters are primarily represented by jointed stick puppets, though the performance uses multiple Zoom windows to play with perspective and size, such as when Joseph, Xavi's puppy-sized stuffed animal, becomes an adult Husky when he crosses from her Zoom window into Xavier's, showing how she sees things through her imagination. The original music by Hyeyoung Kim and a puppet curtain call provide more fun moments, and the play is followed by a talkback, during which viewers can meet the performers and hear answers to questions about topics such as puppet design and construction, the performers' favorite puppets, and the inspirations for the work. Journey Around My Bedroom is visually detailed and inventive and has a great sense of humor and adventure, a perfect virtual expedition for young theatergoers or for kids (and adults) who haven't yet outgrown a little fanciful fun.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

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