Given the hype surrounding War Horse, it's easy to forget that it is essentially a play for children. Its World War I backdrop, its six Tonys (including best play and best direction, plus fistfuls of other awards), its Oscar-nominated film version—you'd think it was spawned from an adult drama like August: Osage County and not a young-adult novel from 1982.
But its origins come galloping home when you're sitting in the theater, noting the flatness of the characters, the predictability of the plot, and that the evening's biggest laughs go to a cheeky goose-puppet who wants to go into a farmhouse but repeatedly has the door slammed in its face. War Horse is no Animal Farm or Charlotte's Web—it's driven not by surprises or character but by impressive special effects, including horse-puppets made from leather, steel, and aircraft cable, and a ribbon of screen that provides animated sketches of whatever setting we're in, from bucolic England to the barbed wire and exploding bodies at Verdun. War Horse is a cartoon for the stage.
Still, (some) adults love it, so it's on a national tour, current stop Seattle, after popular runs in London and New York. Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, sneaked into a public theater, reportedly for the first time in years, to see it on the West End.