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‘Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat’ at Adventure Theatre MTC by Julia L. Exline

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Adventure Theatre MTC presents one of the best known works of Dr. Seuss, Cat in the Hat. Adapted for the stage and originally directed by Katie Mitchell, Director Karin Abromaitis throws her own hat in the ring for Adventure’s production. When a bored brother and sister find themselves trapped inside during a rainy day, a fun-loving cat appears on their doorstep and pushes the limits of indoor play. How much fun is too much?

Alex Vernon (The Fish) and Rick Hammerly (The Cat). Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Alex Vernon (The Fish) and Rick Hammerly (The Cat). Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Set Designer Luciana Stecconi replicates familiar illustrations from the book, using the typical red-and-white color scheme splashed with black scribbles found in most Dr. Seuss books for the interior of a tidy home. Costume Designer Kendra Rai places the same scribbles onto the character’s bright clothing, and when paired with cartoonish features such as oversized headbands, the actors fit right into the setting. Truly, this is a book come to life, and the result is especially interesting and entertaining. NPR’s Guy Raz’s recorded voice is used as narration alongside music composed by William Yanesh. Sound Designer Neil McFadden uses effects like crashing objects and thunder, which fit nicely with lighting by Jason Aufdem-Brinke, who uses a shadowed dripping effect to create the illusion of a reflected rainstorm.

Sally (Jessica Shearer) and her brother (Tyler Herman, as “Boy”) find themselves home alone on a rainy afternoon, and boredom escalates into frustration. Overlooked by their stern pet Fish (a creative performance by Alex Vernon), the children succumb to a tedious afternoon of sitting quietly…until a knock on the door raises them from their stupor. It is The Cat in the Hat, played by Helen Hayes Award Recipient Rick Hammerly. To the children’s wonderment and delight, he dances around the room with an umbrella and begins to balance everything within reach, including books, a jug of milk, a cake…and the highly disapproving Fish. All is well until his balance is lost, and various objects fly everywhere in a wrenching slow-motion scene.

Undaunted, the Cat unleashes his feisty friends Thing 1 and Thing 2, roles that are traded off between four younger actors, Julia Knowles and Leah A Show at my performance. The Things are unstoppable balls of energy, and during a series of flips, jumps, and chases, they manage to turn the house upside down within moments. Fed up, the siblings round up the Things with a net in an entertaining scene of chaotic confusion. The house is in shambles, the children are worried, and the Fish is panicking! Will they be able to set things right before their mother comes home?

The cast works extremely well together, particularly Hammerly’s charming, sly take on the Cat. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the show is the friction between the characters of the Cat and the Fish, who nobly but unsuccessfully try to maintain decorum during the Cat’s visit. They tease each other throughout the show, including a fun moment where the Cat decides that he wants to play football using the fish, before the two characters show down in a wild-west style duel. All elements blend together nicely, which is a challenge, given the frenzied, chaotic plot.

Adventure Theatre MTC’s Cat in the Hat stays true to the classic book, and with great performances and stellar effects, it is the purr-fect way to cool off during a summer afternoon.

Rick Hammerly (The Cat), Tyler Herman (The Boy), and Jessica Shearer (Sally). Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Rick Hammerly (The Cat), Tyler Herman (The Boy), and Jessica Shearer (Sally). Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Running time is 50 minutes, without an intermission.

Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat plays through September 2, 2013 at Adventure Theatre MTC — 7300 MacArthur Blvd (Glen Echo Park), Glen Echo, MD. Purchase tickets by calling (301) 634-2270, or order them online.

 

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