Dragons Love Tacos warms a Coterie crowd

Coterie Dragons Photo 1

From left: Riley Lucas, Caleigh Michnowicz, Jenise Cook, and Eileen Dixon. // Photo by Jordan Rice and courtesy of The Coterie Theatre.

When making friends with dragons, tacos are key. I’m privy to this piece of privileged information because of the Coterie Theatre’s charming Dragons Love Tacos, onstage outdoors, under the canopy of the Pavilion at Crown Center Square.

It was a lightly breezy and overcast morning when I broadly smiled my way through this brightly colored, interactive production about all things dragons—particularly their predilections and preferences surrounding the consumption of the crunchy treat. The show, by Ernie Nolan, is based on the book written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. UMKC Theatre’s 306 Theatre Troupe, under the deft direction of UMKC Theatre professor Stephanie Roberts, kept the young audience (and their adults) rapt and engaged. 

No fourth wall here got in the way. When a couple of characters onstage crept up behind a third, voices around me rang out in warning: “Look behind you!” Often the cast sought audience feedback, and the kids answered the call with relish. 

Why do dragons love tacos and their toppings so much? Why not pizza or chicken shawarma? There’s so much about dragons that we just don’t know. Don’t give the “cultured culinary palate” of these dragons any salsa, or you’ll have more than “tummy trouble” (with accompanying growls and rumbles) at your table. 

Coterie Dragons Photo 2

From left: Chelsea Rolfes, Hieu Ngoc Bui and Michael T. Oakes. // Photo by Jordan Rice and courtesy of The Coterie Theatre.

The dive into dragons begins when a boy (Hieu Ngoc Bui) and his dog, Riley (Chelsea Rolfes), get an unexpected visit from a man in a suit (Michael T. Oakes) who emerges from the big-screen TV after the boy’s mother (heard in voiceover) runs out for groceries, and unnervingly authentic-sounding thunder means playing indoors (sound by David Kiehl). Goodbye, homework. Hello, “dragonology”—a “little-studied” field, the man says—filled with “mind-blowing, earth-shattering, titillating secrets.” 

As the man, Oakes is parts motivational speaker, seminar leader, and emcee. Dragons, of different varieties, arrive for a visit, too—entering like it’s a fashion show and decked out in single stylish getups of red (Eileen Dixon), white (Riley Lucas), blue (Caleigh Michnowicz), and yellow (Jenise Cook), with retractable wings, giant heads and matching midcentury overnight bags (costumes by Georgianna Londré Buchanan). Oakes and his fellow cast members emanate energy, charisma, and utter dragon devotion.

These dragons are party animals, too, who love to dance (choreography by Jenise Cook). And they take it to the aisles, to the delight of the young attendees. It’s a light, fun show, just what we could all probably use right about now—Introduction to Dragons 101 (from a primarily taco and salsa perspective) from the expert, with colorful dragons prancing, Riley the dog panting, and the boy taking it all in along with us. 

Dragons Love Tacos might be a little magical, too, depending on your point of view. On the way out of the Pavilion, a little girl, maybe 3 feet tall, looked at stairs descending to a garage below her and said to the adult accompanying her: “I think that’s where the dragons come from.”

Dragons Love Tacos

The Coterie Theatre through August 8. At Crown Center Square Entertainment Pavilion (2425 Grand) 816-474-6552, thecoterie.org.

Instead of general admission, assigned seating maintains 6 feet of space between groups. There’s no need to head to the box office. Check-in takes place at the Pavilion. The Coterie requests that everyone wear masks while going to and from their seats.

Categories: Theater