Perhaps the way to know what we really want is to be very still and let our imaginations and our hearts speak to us.

At least that is the premise of "Many Moons," the current children's offering of the Southern Oregon University Department of Theatre Arts.

The play is based on an illustrated children's book by noted humorist James Thurber and adapted by Charlotte Chorpening. Thurber is mostly known for his whimsy brushed with cynicism and "Many Moons" has liberal doses of both &

though I doubt if the children in the audience are going to pick up the cynical subtext.

As the play opens, we learn that 10-year-old Princess Lenore had expressed a whim for raspberry tarts, was smothered with every possible example of them and now has a tummy ache and has lost her appetite.

In short, she feels rotten.

Perhaps if Princess Lenore did not live in a world where her every desire was anticipated and fulfilled by courtiers and her bumbling royal father, she could figure out how to cure her listlessness and malaise on her own.

The King is helpless. He has ordered his courtiers, the Mathematician, the Chamberlain and the Wizard, to find a cure. As the Court Nurse hovers and the Wizard and Chamberlain's wives kibitz, the team of experts can simply come up with more of the same &

more raspberry tarts &

as a solution.

It remains for the Jester, apparently Lenore's only friend and playmate, to state the obvious. Let Lenore figure it out by herself. He coaxes her into a dreamy reverie that somehow becomes misunderstood by everyone, including the princess.

She wants the moon. —

Well, of course.

How the Jester gets her the moon and how she figures out &

for herself &

what that really means becomes the delightful and simple solution to the quandary.

SOU's talented troupe of student actors makes this simple parable shine.

Nick Ferrucci as the Jester (the appealing lovesick Nick of last year's "Swimming in the Shallows") sets the tone before the play's start as he wanders around the audience, playing a bongo drum, questioning children and adults alike. He becomes very, very real to us &

so it makes sense that he is the problem solver of the play.

Tara Watkins (Lenore) has appeared extensively at the Camelot Theatre Company in Talent, notably playing Puck in "Shakespeare in Hollywood" and Rose of Sharon in "Grapes of Wrath." That she is totally believable as a sometimes petulant but mostly likeable 10-year-old is quite remarkable.

Jake Feller (Chamberlain) is delightful as the oversize Chamberlain. James O'Hanlon is equally effective as the stumbling Wizard, as is Ryan West as the Mathematician. Jenna Johnson and Ryan Celeste Holt, with their beehive hairdos and brocaded outfits, lend a properly Beverly Hills matron cattiness to the wives. Jorge Paniagua makes the bumbling King rather adorable and sweet.

Chelsie Thomas as the Court Nurse and Jennifer Brown as the Goldsmith's Daughter round out the cast.

OSF's wonderful comedic actor Christopher DuVal has beautifully directed this bit of silly fluff with a biting subtext. The action is played broad, silly and larger than life. DuVal is aided and abetted by the equally silly and larger-than-life scenic design by Erin Dickinson and the marvelous costumes of Savel Sabol. Sound designer Stephen Abts gives us sly bits of "Moon River" and "Moonlight Sonata" just to drive home the point. Lighting is effectively designed by Laura Wiley.

"Many Moons," a kid-friendly, hour-long presentation, plays through March 2 with a 7 p.m. curtain on Fridays and Saturdays and matinees at various times on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, call 552-6348.