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'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' combines slapstick with fantasy

| Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 9:54 p.m.
A scene from 'We're Going on A Bear Hunt.' Robert Workman

Whether the fictional family members onstage are actually hunting a bear in the wilderness or playing make-believe in their house is irrelevant to the main target audience, says a key actor in a children's musical play opening Sunday.

“We're Going on a Bear Hunt” — based on the popular 1989 children's book by British author Michael Rosen and British illustrator Helen Oxbury — is filled with slapstick humor and fun during its 55 minutes, and its plot is open to interpretation, says Duncan Foster, who plays the dad.

“You can see it in two ways: They are out in the forest looking for a bear, or they're just in their house using a bucket and mops,” says Foster, 52. “As grown-ups, we want to know: Is that real or is that not real? For children, they believe what they're doing when they're playing. Whether it's real or not, for a 3-year-old, it's much more gray than that.”

“We're Going on a Bear Hunt” — presented by Pittsburgh International Children's Theater and produced by the British company KW & NB, Ltd. — caters to kids ages 3 to 10 and their parents with a simple but entertaining plotline, Foster says. A dad, his two kids and his dog go off in search of a bear, and encounter many obstacles along the way. They wade through swishy-swashy grass, a splishy-splashy river, and thick, oozy, squelchy mud in search of their prey; meanwhile, the performers sing and dance to catchy tunes, Foster says.

The play includes a few mildly scary scenes, such as when the bear chases the people, Foster says.

The audience loves the energy and comedy of the show, and the zaniness, as performers go crazy and throw things around on stage, and get into their shenanigans, he says. Meanwhile, the audience gets rowdy along with the characters.

“We just muck around,” Foster says. “It gets crazy. It's ... just being silly and having lots of fun.”

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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