Places to Go - Pinocchio at the Puppet Co. (Glen Echo, MD)



(Photos by Christopher Piper)

Glen Echo's, the Puppet Co, is something of a DC institution. The girls viewed their first ever live performance there (Sleeping Beauty, several years ago) and I'm sure the Puppet Co also introduced thousands of other area children to the joys of the stage. Over the years, we've attended quite a few of their shows, some better than others (every DC parent should include the Puppet Co's yearly production of the Nutcracker on their bucket list, up there with cherry blossoms and the National Arb's Capitol Columns, it's that beautiful). So I felt rather excited when the Puppet Co contacted me about reviewing their latest show, Pinocchio (okay, so I jumped around the kitchen screaming "yippee!" cause I'm dorky like that).

The day of the performance the minivan broke down in our driveway (which, I suppose, is much better than breaking down anywhere else), so after changing out carseats and making room in Dan's car, we arrived at the theater with about two minutes to spare (pretty impressive, actually). The girls and I were somewhat cranky and tired, but luckily the production lifted our spirits. The theater itself is a large room with benches on the side (mainly for adults as the playhouse encourages children to sit criss-cross applesauce on the carpeted floor in front of the stage). One of the things I love about the Puppet Co is their easy-going attitude regarding children; suggested age limits exist for all productions (the theater does not recommend Pinocchio for children under 5) but several attendees brought babies and toddlers, which seemed fine (though I do agree that the intended audience is kindergarten and above).

Regarding the performance, the rod puppets were magical, the best I've ever seen. P kept saying "I just wish I could touch them" and I understood exactly what she meant, as they seemed so life-like. Further, the set-design worked well - slides in the background gave a sense of fullness to the production, making the whole thing come alive. On the downside, I had a tough time hearing some of the key characters, such as the fairy and the evil puppeteer. And the story itself seemed a little jumpy, as Pinocchio goes from adventure to adventure. I'm still not totally clear on why he became a goat. Of course, I haven't seen or read Pinocchio in years, so I'm not sure whether my complaints rest with the production or with the play itself. F, on the other hand, recently read Pinocchio in a storybook and she had no trouble following the plot, "oh look, here comes the blue fairy, mom. She's beautiful." The children, despite their crankiness, seemed to enjoy the production, especially the "really mean" fox and cat. When asked what she didn't like about it, P replied "in the beginning when Pinocchio was talking to his dad I was scared it would be kind of boring like [yes, she's only 5 and she can already use the word "like" in an arbitrary nonsensical fashion], but then all this fun stuff happened and I liked it. Especially the fairy."

After the play, we received a backstage tour, for which I really wish I would have brought my camera. The puppeteers explained to the children how the puppets' rods work (we all gave Pinocchio a "high five") and how they operate the puppets while sitting on little rolling stools behind the stage. The backstage "glamor" mesmerized my children, who talked all day about their special behind-the-scenes tour. Of course, after leaving the theater, we ran around Glen Echo for awhile - eating popcorn, cruising the playground, checking out the bridge and stream, with me PROMISING we would return soon to visit Living Classroom's outdoor museum and ride the carousal (which reopens April 28th).

If you're interested, the 45 minute play runs through June 3, 2012 with shows Thursday-Sunday (and Wednesdays in May). Tickets are $10 for adults and children. Click here for more info. For those of you with little ones, the theater also hosts Tiny Tot shows for $5 on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday (we've never been, but I've heard good things).


*I love these pictures of NYC.

*Vociferous Transmission.

*Thank you for this, But I Do Have a Law Degree. Thank you.



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