All children play make-believe, but too many of us outgrow it. Touchstone Theatre's whimsical "We All Fall Down" allows grown-ups to take a return journey to the world of let's-pretend in the relatively safe and sophisticated confines of the Theatre Project.
The cast consists of two adult actors, Susan Chase and Eric Beatty, who portray children at stages of development ranging from infancy to adolescence.
In addition to playing make-believe together, they also go off into their own fantasy worlds. While she pretends to be a British broadcaster announcing Prince Charles' engagement to teen-age Susan Chase, he is in his bed pantomiming a series of violent deaths.
Acting like a kid probably isn't as easy as it looks -- or as easy as these two make it look. Even so, Mr. Beatty is more adept at conveying wide-eyed childishness than is Ms. Chase, whose performance suggests more poise and maturity.
But this is in keeping with what appears to be the ongoing theme of "We All Fall Down" -- the difference between the sexes -- a difference in perceptions, interests, desires, social development and inner struggles.
The clearest depiction of this theme comes during a pre-teen slumber party when she feigns interest in his elaborate re-enactment of a football game, but all the while she is imagining them starring in "Romeo and Juliet."
The hour-long piece is the collaborative creation of Touchstone, a Bethlehem, Pa. company, and French-based director Daniel Stein and his wife, designer Paule Sandoval Stein. Sorting out the dramatis personae is confusing at times -- a problem that could be easily solved by having the actors use their own names, instead of tossing in the occasional "Linda" or "Billy."
There's nothing confusing about Mrs. Stein's set, however -- an accumulation of large geometric shapes painted in primary colors and manipulated to serve as everything from a car to a teeter-totter to a helicopter blade.
Toys also figured into Touchstone's streamlined adaptation of Voltaire's "Candide," which came to the Theatre Project last season and featured such props as a sand castle and wading pool. That piece utilized childlike production values. "We All Fall Down" goes one step further and focuses on childhood itself. The text may not be Voltaire (or even a Voltaire send-up), but the piece has an unmistakable charm and a warm sense of familiarity.
'We All Fall Down' When: Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., matinees Sundays at 3 p.m. Through Oct. 13.
Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.