“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Uncensored” à la Book-It Repertory Theatre

We all know this story; we read it in school; we’ve seen it on stage or in the movies before, so why would we want to see it again? Because Book-It makes it so powerful and so poignant that’s why.

This is the “uncensored” version, meaning that the word “nigger” that was excised from the text in the early years of political correctness has been used throughout this production. It’s a vile word, conjuring up the evil of slavery and the persistent malevolence of prejudice. Yet, as Book-It realized, the word belongs here. It reinforces the message Twain was presenting. He chose it carefully. One cringes each time it’s said as the noble Jim is subjected to the many degrading encounters and each time Huck struggles with his crisis of conscience over his relationship with Nigger Jim.

Adapted by Judd Parkin and directed by Jane Jones, this is a production that does just about everything right. The Center Theatre stage at Seattle Center offers modest resources for even the most brilliant production staff. Despite that, scenic designer Andrea Bryn Bush manages to create some absolutely magical effects, especially the raft.

Christopher Morson as Huck is enchanting. He’s got energy, insouciance, wiliness, yet innocence and gullibility. Geoffery Simmons as Jim exudes dignity and commands our empathy. Russell Hodgkinson is as evil as one can be as Pap. He and Peter Jacobs as King and Duke are marvelously funny, though this adaptation allows them to occupy a little too much stage time. There’s not a weak actor in this production, and Theresa Holmes’ music reinforces the action without overwhelming it.

This is a real winner. Go, take your children; discuss it afterwards; you won’t be sorry.

Through May 12 at Center Theatre at the Armory in Seattle Center; (206 216-0833 or www.book-it.org)

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