Even if its plot and production are anything but simple, Vanderbilt University Theatre’s fall 2017 debut play, Kid Simple: A Radio Drama in the Flesh, is technologically impressive and thoroughly entertaining.

Kid Simple follows ambitious teenage inventor Moll’s life after she invents the Third Ear, a device that allows one to hear inaudible noises. When a charming bad boy enters her life, seduces her and steals the Third Ear, Moll is forced to go on a quest to retrieve it. Until she does, sound will cease to behave as we know it.

Photo credit: Phillip Franck

The play experiments with the way actors and audiences interact with sound in the theater; the highlight of the night was the Foley soundboard, a sound machine that brought the noise in real time. It was one of the more technically advanced components of the play.

The challenging sound production was one of the things that initially drew Director Leah Lowe to select Kid Simple as the seasonal debut. Her decision automatically engaged the cast and crew.

“Everyone involved in this project, the students and faculty and guest artists, all approached it with this great sense of adventure, which is totally appropriate since it’s this adventurous play,” Lowe said.

Theater amateurs and connoisseurs were engaged by the Foley soundboard. The machine featured everything from an old telephone to classic movie quotes to a “thunder” machine made from a tube with a spring at the bottom. The innovative sounds and execution felt like a behind-the-scenes look into a play on stage. Through the excitement created by the Foley board and the confusion stemming from the plot, the Narrator interjected with welcome rationality. The Narrator, who morphed into a representative from the audience, asked the questions the audience was thinking. This tactic allowed the audience to interact with the play in a completely new way. It’s fun and unconventional, which is exactly what Lowe aimed for.

Photo credit: Phillip Franck

“I think it invites you, as an audience member, to participate in a different way,” Lowe said. “My hope was that people would feel like they’d been on a little bit of a roller coaster ride.”

Hop on that roller coaster. Kid Simple is still playing in Neely Auditorium on Oct. 5 at 7:00 p.m., Oct. 7 at 8:00 p.m. and Oct. 8 at 2:00 p.m. Student tickets can be reserved online or picked up at the door for a reduced price; general admission tickets are $10.

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