Members say: Great acting, Entertaining, Intelligent, Clever, Absorbing

About the show

Penguin Rep Theatre brings its 2015 comedy about the creation of Disney's classic movie 'Fantasia' to 59E59.

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When Walt Disney hears "The Rite of Spring," he envisions the creation of the earth, volcanoes, and, of course, dinosaurs. But composer Igor Stravinsky has another vision altogether. In this provocative comedy, we go behind the scenes of Disney’s classic 'Fantasia,' where the dinosaurs aren’t the only ones doing battle.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews


"'Small World' is an insightful and appealing play, one that will challenge your ideas about art in its different forms...This two-hander is an absorbing, entertaining, and informative show...This behind-the-scenes look at the work and attitudes of two renowned geniuses will captivate you from the first moment to the last. The two characters in 'Small World' are so genuine, you will think that you are in the room with Walt Disney and Igor Stravinsky." Full Review

Theater Life

“Much of the conversation centers on the major issues all artists face…A lot of this may seem old-hat. But in Stroppel’s hands, all these topics glisten like the morning dew…Best of all, the show is also funny. And it’s funny in a very smart way…Shanahan is excellent as the sometimes clueless animator…But D’Ambrose steals the show because he accomplishes something much more difficult. He makes Stravinsky’s grandiosity, self-love and scorn for the common man equally amiable.” Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“It takes considerable liberty with the facts but still manages to create a viable image of the personalities involved…What makes the play and its performances absorbing is the clash of these titanic temperaments…Stroppel manages to keep the dialogue hopping as Disney and Stravinsky go through the throes of their artistic rites…Whether you're a Disney or Stravinsky fan…you should find 'Small World'…a fascinating backstage confrontation between two of the greatest artists of the last century.” Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"The dialogue is witty and does not condescend to the audience. The views of both men get their due. D’Ambrose is marvelous as Stravinsky and Shanahan makes a fine Disney...Joe Brancato’s direction is fluid. My only quibble is about the length. At 75 minutes without intermission, it seems either too short or too long...I think it would be even better as a one-hour play on a double bill." Full Review


"Stroppel’s fantasia, 'Small World,' in which towering composer Stravinsky butts heads and egos with unbeatable Disney, is simply a delight...Director Brancato handles his star-quality cast with kid gloves in this uncanny environment...seamlessly making them real for us...But, of course, it’s playwright Stroppel’s words and thoughts, wit and sensibilities that matter most. I wish there were more, more. I could have danced all night." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"In the excellent 'Small World' written by Frederick Stroppel, superbly directed by Joe Brancato, we are given a delicious view of how such a marriage of ideas and personalities between two innovators of the twentieth century might have evolved...An enjoyable evening of fun...Actors Shanahan and D’Ambrose are fine accomplices who adroitly manifest Stoppel’s conflicts...Kudos goes to the creative and production teams who made this production a memorable entertainment." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Brief, barbed, often very funny...A premise this slender could easily wear out its welcome, even with a running time of only 75 minutes, but Stroppel makes sure that both characters are never at a loss for a clever, pertinent comeback...Brancato's direction maintains the rat-a-tat pace and vigor of a film by Billy Wilder or Howard Hawks, with fine work from the two-man cast...Even if his characters are eternally locked in the same argument, they never wear out their welcome." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"The play is smart, amusing, and illuminating; both characters are well drawn...A somewhat thin ending might be rewritten for more significant revelations...To watch Shanahan describe an animated sequence is to see it come to life before you. The actor appears boyish but never insubstantial...Stephen D’Ambrose is suave, dignified, dark, and extremely sure of his own genius...Director Joe Brancato uses minimal set to excellent, low-key effect." Full Review


"Under Joe Brancato's direction, 'Small World' has been staged with an unobtrusive directness and simplicity. Though they seem, at times, to be giving lectures, both D'Ambrose, with his thick Russian accent, and Shanahan, with the tougher role of going from arrogant to vulnerable, shine." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"There is much humor in the dialogue between the two men...The dialogue between Disney and Stravinsky is cleverly written, and director Joe Brancato keeps the confrontations between the men lively...'Small World' makes a misstep by tacking on a superfluous coda...It would have been better to have figured out an ending without the clumsy ploy. But even so, the play is filled with enough wit to make seeing it a very enjoyable experience, with special appreciation for the fine acting." Full Review

Epoch Times

"One of the highlights of the play shows the creative process of each man...Brancato’s direction works well, keeping the story tightly focused on the issues raised, with numerous bits of trivia tossed in. But the final scene feels rather contrived as though the playwright tries to end on a forced high note. While interest in 'Small World' will largely depend on how one feels about the two depicted, the play has a lot to say about the lengths one will go to realize their particular artistic vi... Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"A lightweight yet often surprisingly perceptive comedy...It does remind us that both men had a dark side, something that deepens things beyond the earlier bantering tone...Even with its short running time, 'Small World' would benefit from some editing by dropping the after life section and a few of the too-easy jokes referencing other Disney films. Nevertheless, it generally makes for an entertaining evening, with excellent contrasting performances by its co-stars." Full Review


"For most of the 90-minute play, especially the first of its three scenes, Stroppel's concept works pretty well....Under Brancato's fluid direction that opening makes for a nice move into the men's interaction...Both actors bring their characters to vivid and watchable life...Unfortunately, the promising start and mostly entertaining middle end with a too-easy otherworldly finale." Full Review


"Whatever drama there may have been between these men in real life, none of it carries over in this Penguin Rep production...At times, 'Small World' has a certain amount of potential...But overall, the piece lacks the deep psychological underpinnings and tension to communicate both men's individual struggles. The discussions of art and commerce are unoriginal, and the humor stays at this easy, low-ball level throughout. Still, the performances are charming." Full Review

Theater Life

"A shallow sketch attempting to address big themes but producing only occasional chuckles and mild nods of recognition...D’Ambrose and Shannan give competent impersonations of the great figures and Joe Brancato delivers a neat staging, but there’s nothing new here. Deep art doesn’t sell as well as pleasant cartoons. Geniuses can be temperamental bastards. Quel surprise!" Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Despite the commendable efforts of Stephen D’Ambrose as Igor Stravinsky and Mark Shanahan Walt Disney, Mr. Stroppel’s play lacks the necessary character development and focus to convince the audience of any consistent thematic strand...The conversation in the second act about the retelling of 'Faust' is perhaps the highlight of the play...One wishes for more of this level of discourse...Mr. Brancato’s direction is serviceable but lacks subtlety." Full Review


for a previous production “An immensely entertaining new work…The spirited banter between the great men is chock-full of clever witticisms...Initially, their argument feels obvious and predictable...However, in the second act, the play begins to add more layers, as the world outside, the war, and the financial pressures weighing both men down add much more reality to the fantasy…Director Joe Brancato has wisely allowed the text to do the talking, providing a clean and uncluttered production.” Full Review

The New York Times

for a previous production “A friendly and sometimes provocative comedy…'Small World’ has an interesting premise, and the first act of this eager-to-please material establishes their personalities well…But as Stravinsky becomes openly angry, the volume rises on debates with unsurprising refrains, circular and tiresome. Act II digs deeper…The actors pitch their performances to match the exaggerated, conjectured duel of ideas. D’Ambrose is a particularly convincing pleasure as Stravinsky.” Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Intelligent, Entertaining, Shallow

See it if You are interested in a discussion about art vs. commerce. You are curious about the personalities of Stravinsky and Disney.

Don't see it if You need more than a two-person talkfest when you see a show.

Also While the play stayed with rather obvious matters and didn't dig very ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Enchanting, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if Fascinating play about artists discussing their respective art and collaboration, reinterpretation and its place in a changing world.

Don't see it if Not much action - mostly conversation. But very accessible to us non-artists!

Intelligent, Entertaining, Underproduced

See it if You are a Disney buff.

Don't see it if If you are looking for big production values.

Enchanting, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if You want to see an adorable little play that is well paced and beautifully acted.

Don't see it if You're looking for something a little more powerful for emotional. But it's a really fun night at the theater!!

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if have any interest in Stravinsky or Walt Disney; excellent cast in an intelligent and entertaining show

Don't see it if don't like two person shows, want a big production

Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Refreshing

See it if you want to see a play about Walt Disney meeting with Igor Stravinsky to discuss using his music in Fantasia. Well written and great acting

Don't see it if you don't like 2 character plays or if you need lots of fancy staging.

Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining, Witty, Great costumes

See it if you want to see the clash of two creative titans with opposing artisitic philosophies.

Don't see it if you prefer action over talk.

Also A very stylishly realized comedy of ideas.... Read more Read less

Quirky, Interesting history of two men and ideas., Two very strong and gifted performers., Wonderful lighting displays.

See it if You're very into this Disney/Fantasia history. You want to see two dynamic giving performers.

Don't see it if You expect (as I did) to see Disney visuals (there are none)-You expect to hear a lot of music from this tale (there should have been more.)

Good two hander.

See it if You like small two character plays that are well done and about a true incident.

Don't see it if You don't like two character plays.

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if Well written and acted. Interesting snippet of "history". Absorbing.

Don't see it if Simple staging. Conversation only. Little action. Still interesting to watch.

Clever, Intelligent, Interesting, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy "Behind the Scenes" or true stories. The subject matter I found very interesting. Good performances by both actors.

Don't see it if You dislike smaller more intimate 2 person shows shows. Aren't interested in Disney or Stravinksy

Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing

See it if you are a fan of Walt Disney (as an innovator&artist) or love discussions about the Nature of Art and the class between business and art.

Don't see it if you need more than just animated "debates" / discussions between two characters. This is a "bare-bones" staging and no "action" occurs.

Also This is a delightful exploration of the clash between Art & Commerce a... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Clever, Delightful, Indulgent

See it if you have an interest in Disney's Fantastia and one story behind its development. Please note: Disney-related, but not family-friendly.

Don't see it if you want a factual representation of events. While interesting, the storytelling takes clear liberties - most notably their chat in Heaven.

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if You want to see two strong performances about interesting figures. The debates are sharp and at times funny, but also thought-provoking.

Don't see it if You prefer big productions with lots of action. This is a small, intimate think-bio.

Enchanting, Intelligent, Quirky, Refreshing, Inspiring

See it if Conflict of artistic vision via opposing perspectives of pain and struggle (Stravinsky) vs. escape (Disney). Amusing and enlightening.

Don't see it if You are not interested in art about art. Though the artists disagree, they believe in their art. This transcends and unites them.

Delightful, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if An accessible and good use of 75 minutes -- absorbing dialogue on defining art and success in the context of Disney animation.

Don't see it if you're not looking for a short, fun excurson and want a more serious evening of theater.

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if you want a well crafted and well acted play fictionalizing a discussion between 2 high profile artists and exploring their artistic vision

Don't see it if you want fluffy theater & are put off by thoughtful, historical, academic themes in a fast and witty 80 minute production with a weak ending

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if You like a good two person historical play with wit.

Don't see it if You are not familiar with the early works of Disney or Stravinsky.

Also BTW: The 1893 World's Fair in Chicago was not the first (not even the ... Read more Read less

Nostalgic, History lesson, Good concept, Meditative

See it if Intrigued by premise of motivations/interactions of Disney and Stravinsky. The actors credibly inhabit 2 sometimes unlikable artistic egos

Don't see it if Looking for a through plot or more depth in exploring the aesthetics and problematic personas and politics of two giants. Conflict is forced

Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You like to know how Fantasia came about. You're curious about Disney and Stravinsky and music and dinosaurs! You love animation and fantasy

Don't see it if You don't care about Disney or Fantasia

Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if you like intelligent comedies. A real battle of wits. Kept me smiling from beginning to end.

Don't see it if you don't like 2 character plays or are looking for fluff.

Clever, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if If you enjoy the Historic fiction about Disney and Stravinsky. Well written and acted. A quiet but satisfying drama.

Don't see it if If you only enjoy musicals and elaborate dramas.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if you're interested in a well-crafted play about the nature of art vs popular entertainment.

Don't see it if you don't want to learn more about Walt Disney & Igor Stravinsky, or ponder what makes great art and if popular opinion should influence it.

Also Fascinating story, two great actors, well written and acted.

Absorbing, Enchanting, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if You enjoy great acting and writing, or if you are interested in Walt Disney or Stravinsky.

Don't see it if ... Not sure. Just go see it, it's wonderful!

Funny, Great acting, Banal, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if If you like plays about historical characters in fictious situation

Don't see it if You are interested in something original The eternal struggle between commercialism and true art

Cast & Creatives (10)