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‘The Hero Twins’ Delights Center Stage Theater Audiences — But You’ve Got to Go Today

Two heroes, three demons, a narrator, and a host of animals and other characters are brought to vibrant life onstage by three humans in Boxtales Theatre Company’s new offering, The Hero Twins. At Center Stage Theater only on Sunday, it’s a bilingual retelling of a portion of the Popol Vuh, the origin story of the Maya.

Michael Andrews, Matthew Tavianini and Marie Ponce wear masks, play musical instruments, change their voices, and bring in elements of dance, acrobatics and classical theatrics to populate the stage with characters from this magical and adventure-filled story.

Andrews, an original founding member of Boxtales, is a consummate performer. With his commanding physical presence and voice, he often embodies big, strong characters. Here he plays three demons by wearing a clever three-faced mask, with a different voice for each. He gets consistent giggles from the audience when he takes on a high-pitched voice for one of them.

Tavianini has been with Boxtales for the better part of a decade, and has been acting for three times as long. He is versatile, quick and athletic. Here he portrays the titular hero twins, with a double mask.

Ponce is new to the company but flows in as if she’s been there all along. As the primary narrator, she is masterful at stepping briefly into other roles — Rat, Mosquito and Louse are particularly memorable — and then back to narration without missing a beat.

The skillful use of percussion instruments and small props throughout the show sets the scene and evokes a fine sense of place and action. An excellent shadow puppet sequence by Rudy Martinez illustrates a trip to the underworld, and adds just the right touch of otherworldliness. The beautiful masks used throughout were created by Lesley Finlayson, Lindsay Rust and Ann Chevrefils.

Boxtales was founded in 1994 as a program of the Lobero Theatre’s Literary Arts Outreach Program to bring storytelling performances to Santa Barbara schools. Since then, this dynamic group has continued to create highly imaginative works of theater based on world myth, folktale and literature for schools and adult audiences.

There are two chances on Sunday, at 2 and 5 p.m., to see this fantastic show at Center Stage Theater at Paseo Nuevo at Chapala and De la Vina streets. At one hour, with no intermission, it’s a great outing for families — or just bring your inner child out to play. You’ll be glad you did.

— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.

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