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Kaden Rhodes and Collin Woldt share a friendship in "Holes" at First Stage. (PHOTO: Paul Ruffalo)

First Stage's "Holes" digs up a strong story about life's obstacles

The path of life is rarely smooth. It's filled with all kinds of obstacles, some more severe than others, but we have to navigate them all with care – the rocks we must climb, the seas we must cross and, perhaps most difficult, the holes from which we must crawl.

Sometimes the holes are just there in our path. Other times those holes are dug by others. And, perhaps most devastating of all, are the holes we dig for ourselves.

Those obstacles, dug into the Earth, are at the heart of "Holes," the adaptation of the famous novel by Louis Sachar that opened Friday night at First Stage.

The mystery story centers on Stanley Yelnats IV (Stanley is Yelnats spelled backward). He has been arrested for stealing a pair of tennis shoes that belonged to baseball player Clyde Livingston, who had donated them to a charity. Stanley is sentenced to the Camp Green Lake, an imprisonment facility for juveniles where digging a hole a day is seen as the path to "good character development."

Stanley joins a crew of other prisoners in the hole-digging campaign. Each young man has to dig a five-by-five hole, and if they discover any kind of trinket, they have to give it to the warden with the hope of maybe earning a day off.

Stanley blames his troubles on his great-great-grandfather who received a curse when he was spurned in his marriage plans and sailed off to America from Latvia.

Through the generations, each of the Yelnats men were met with trials and troubles, suffering the misery of the curse as their lives, families and friends were battered by the fates.

The curse has reached its nadir for Stanley at a camp in the middle of a desert named for a lake that has dried up and is now dotted with holes. The warden demands the digging continue every day, and there is a suspicion that there is something buried that we don't know about.

I'm not going to spoil the ending of this production, but it is good fun for kids of all ages, thanks to the mystery of a treasure hunt, an escape and a climb up a mountain called God's Thumb.

First Stage Artistic Director Jeff Frank helmed the production, and he had a talented cast to work with, including Todd Denning, Malkia Stampley and Mary MacDonald Kerr. But opening night with the Rattlesnake cast, the show stealers were Kaden Rhodes, who played Stanley, and Collin Woldt, who played Zero, one of the boys in Stanley's camp.

Rhodes had the kind of determination that Stanley needed to have to get through his days and nights. Rhodes has an expressive face and was a very natural actor, while Woldt is about as cute as they come, his role moving from isolated offender to sharing life with Stanley.

The development of the relationship between the two boys is one of the special parts of this production and is just one of the things that make it worth a trip.

We can all find that all of those holes in our road are the kind of things that can't stop us if we don't let it.

As Stanley said, "If you live your life in a hole, the only way to go is up."

"Holes" runs through Feb. 4 and information on showtimes and tickets is available here.

Production Team: Director, Jeff Frank; Assistant Director, Sheri Williams Pannell; Fight Choreographer, Todd Denning; Scenic Designer, Rick Rasmussen; Costume Designer, Lyndsey Kuhlmann; Lighting Designer, Nick Belley; Sound Designer, Christian Gero; Stage Manager, Melissa L. Wanke; Assistant State Manager, Olivia Bedard


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