'Coco's Diary' reminds us that change is relative

​Like a lot of 13-year-olds, Clotilde Irvine isn't all that fond of school, is intrigued by the feelings she has for boys, and wishes she had more independence than her parents are willing to give her. She also happens to live at one of the most exclusive addresses in the Twin Cities, one that would eventually become the governor's residence in St. Paul.

For Coco, that's far in the future. Instead, Coco's Diary follows the young teenager through 1927 in a tremendously entertaining piece now onstage at the History Theatre.

If you come into the show hoping for deep insights into the psyche of '20s-era America; of characters caught on the edge of the Flapper years and heading into the grim years of the Great Depression followed by World War II, then you've come to the wrong show. The play, adapted by Bob Beverage and director Ron Peluso, stays decidedly inside of Coco's own mind.

Coco, her family, and friends certainly know how to find fun, and that makes up most of the two hours of the play. There are adventures at school -- such as attempting to steal all of the silverware so they won't have to eat the awful lunches -- to a summer spent at the lake, attending dances and getting in trouble on the water.

We see the story via the adult Coco and her brother, Tom, who are packing away a few things from the family house before it is to be donated to the State of Minnesota. The adult pair (played by Andrea Wollenberg and Jake Endres) take on all of the other roles from the diary, while a young performer (Anna Evans at the performance I saw) gives her all to the 13-year-old Coco.

It's material that could pretty easily become far too self-involved to carry a full-length show, especially as the chronological diary doesn't really provide for any great story arcs or revelations, just an insight into the steady growth of a young girl into a young woman. Thankfully, there's a lot of charm in the writing and the acting. All three of the performers have a ball, romping along like they are telling favorite family stories at a reunion. 

The three also build the atmosphere of the time with plenty of hit songs from the 1920s, often led by the very talented Endres. These provide transitions and occasional punctuation to the scenes that surround them, along with giving us an extra taste of the atmosphere of a wealthy neighborhood in St. Paul in 1927.

In the end, if there's a message here it's that teenagers, no matter the obsessions or the slang, haven't changed all that much in the last century. They still want to learn more about the outside world, and relationships, and feel a special thrill when someone from outside their circle recognizes them for the special person that they are.


Coco's Diary
The History Theatre
30 E. 10th St.,St. Paul
Through March 25
For information, call 651. 292.4323 or visit online

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