Lilly learns valuable lessons about consequences in Purse

Photo by Shawn HallidayJason Duga, left, plays Chester, Garrett Smith plays Wilson and Cristin Ponjuan plays Lilly in Plamakers of Baton Rouge's production of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, which runs Feb. 22-March 3 at the Reilly Theatre on the LSU campus.
Photo by Shawn HallidayJason Duga, left, plays Chester, Garrett Smith plays Wilson and Cristin Ponjuan plays Lilly in Plamakers of Baton Rouge's production of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, which runs Feb. 22-March 3 at the Reilly Theatre on the LSU campus.

It’s always tough when the new kid steals the spotlight, especially when it’s been yours for six years.

Yes, six years of being the only one. And suddenly, you’re not.

So, Grammy, who is totally cool because she truly understands, gives you a plastic purse. Even better, that purse is purple. And that purple plastic purse is all about you and absolutely nothing about Julius.

That’s the new kid’s name, Julius. Yours is Lilly.

“And when her grandmother gives her that purse, it makes Lilly special,” Neena Kelfstrom said.

She’s the director of Playmakers of Baton Rouge’s production of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, which opens Friday, Feb. 22, in the Reilly Theatre. That performance will be preceded by a pay-what-you-can performance on Thursday, Feb. 21.

The story’s title is taken from children’s author Kevin Henke’s first book, but playwright Kevin Kling combined three of Henke’s books into this adaptation.

“It also has parts of Kevin Henke’s Chester’s Way and Julius, the Baby of the World,” Kelfstrom said. “Lilly is the main character in the first book, but she makes special appearances in the other two. So, those who are familiar with these books will recognize the characters and storylines.”

And those who aren’t can always read the books after seeing the play.

“When we do a production based on a book, we try to stay true to the book with our sets so they will be recognizable to the audience,” Kelfstrom said. “The kids will recognize the stage from the books. And those who read the books after seeing the play will recognize what they see on the page.”

And kids will be watching this show from two large carpeted areas on either side of the stage, which always generates great response.

“It’s fun, because the kids will get excited and respond during the play,” Garrett Smith said.

He plays a mouse named Walter. Jason Duga plays the mouse Chester, star of the book, Chester’s Way. “Chester and Walter do everything right,” Duga said. “Then Lilly comes along.”

“She changes everything for them,” Smith said. “One day, they’re double knotting their shoes, and then she comes along and shows them a different way to do things. They think of her as a rock star.”

Which is proof that Lilly is pretty special. But she isn’t feeling so special these days, because of the family addition of her baby brother Julius.

“Lilly’s feeling left out,” Cristin Ponjuan said.

She plays Lilly in this production. Playmakers fans will remember her as Tattletale May in the company’s 2011 Christmas production, Junie B in Jingle Bells Batman Smells.

Well, her character isn’t a tattletale this time around. Lilly calls herself “Queen of the World,” and a “lover of everything.” She loves cheese snacks, her new red boots, her best friends Wilson and Chester and her new teacher, Mr. Slinger. But most of all, she loves her new purple plastic purse, which plays music whenever it’s opened.

“I can identify with Lilly,” Ponjuan said. “I was an only child until I was 5 years old.”

It’s something to which many children in the audience will be able to relate. It’s fun being an only child, and the world instantly changes when a new kid comes along. “I was very imaginative, and I love playing Lilly, because she’s so imaginative,” Ponjuan said. “She never leaves home without a disguise.”

Lilly begins the story by crashing Wilson’s and Chester’s picnic. Later, when her new baby brother arrives, she announces that he is disgusting and not the “Baby of the World” her parents promised.

She is sent to the “Uncooperative Chair” for this action, which only compounds her frustration. But then her grandmother, Grammy, buys Lilly a new pair of sunglasses and purple plastic purse that plays music. She’s eager to demonstrate the purse to her class, but her teacher, Mr. Slinger, tells her to wait.

This is when trouble begins and lessons are learned, lessons of consequences and responsibility. And in the end, does Lilly finally accept her brother as the “Baby of the World”?

Kelfstrom smiles. Of course, she knows the answer, but audience members must wait until the end of the play to learn the answer. Which is really the fun part, because Lilly is fun. And she’s special.

Purple plastic purse or not.