Where the Sidewalk Ends

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Through March 27. $16-$32; 776-1747 or www.boxcartheare.org.
Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma (at Sixth St.), S.F.

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The beauty and wonder of this amalgamated adaptation of several classic Shel Silverstein books grabs you from the moment the curtain is stripped away. Director and designer Nick Olivero and writer Sarah Savage have created an enchanting world that neatly captures the playfulness of Silverstein's best-loved poems and stories, where the color and warmth of Amy Knight's costumes and Christian Foster Howes' music burst forth from a black-and-white backdrop. Michelle Ianiro is particularly captivating as the nurturing Tree, looking out for the young Shel as he struggles with his mom and falls for the neighborhood girl. His journey from 7-year-old boy to elderly man loses steam in the second half, as Shel ventures off to find his own missing piece. The stage is stripped bare for his big emotional discovery about whom he wants to become as a man and husband, yet the actors don't quite have the chops, nor Savage the nuanced insights, to carry this off. But even if Boxcar Theatre has yet to uncover the "adult" heart of the story, the production is so good at bringing to life the childlike charm, silliness, and joy of Silverstein's books that it's still a pleasure to join in the fun.

 
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