‘Sleeping Beauty’ at The Puppet Co. by Julia L. Exline

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS
The Puppet Co. Playhouse presents the iconic classic Sleeping Beauty, directed by Allan Stevens and adapted for puppets by Duane T. Bowers. Nestled in the family-friendly Glen Echo Park, The Puppet Co. are masters when it comes to children’s entertainment.

Photo courtesy of The Puppet Co.

Photo by Christopher Piper.

The Playhouse is set up to be as welcoming as possible for families; with the children sprawled across a vast carpet and framed by benches for seated adults, everyone has a clear view of the stage. Televisions with live-feed of the show are displayed in the lobby in case overexcited children need some space to calm down, making the atmosphere casual, inviting, and accommodating. And with shows usually running no longer than 45 minutes, the timing is just right for children who tend to get wiggly.

Fairy-tale classics are popular at The Puppet Co., and I’ve found over the years that they stay consistently dependable with their adaptations, which are (for the most part) traditional. Instead of altering these classic stories nearly beyond recognition (which I see all the time elsewhere, with mixed results), The Puppet Co. delivers the original versions, making their productions creative and unique by telling these stories through puppetry.

Such is the case with Sleeping Beauty. Set and Puppet Designer Allan Stevens uses three different platforms for the stage, all of them bedecked with blue draperies, golden fringe, and elegant archways that are covered in roses. The set is simple and sweet, leaving your focus to center on the main attraction: the rod puppets, which remain as beautiful as ever. Delicate and intricately detailed, the puppets are always striking and impressive. This particular bunch of puppets were constructed by Allan Stevens, Eric Brooks, MayField Piper, Christopher Piper, and Interns Marianne Murphy and Mica Jung.

Performers Christopher and MayField Piper, Allan Stevens, and Joshua Aaron Rosenblum use rod puppetry to tell the tale of Briar Rose, a princess who is cursed into a deep sleep. As the spinning wheel is a focal point of the plot (and also a thing of the far past), Piper introduces the young audience to the tool before the show begins, sharing its history and explaining how it works. While the plot mostly remains traditional, there is an addition in the form of the Royal Storyteller – a talking frog performed by Rosenblum, whose slapstick antics easily made him a crowd favorite. The puppeteers also sneak in a few clever pop-culture references for the adults, using lyrics and catch-phrases from popular 80’s music and sitcoms. My only qualm was the fact that one of the puppeteer’s faces was easily seen through the transparent drapery, creating a somewhat distracting “floating head” effect.

The Puppet Co. does what it does best with Sleeping Beauty— it takes a beloved classic and delivers it through the medium of beautiful and professional puppetry.

Combining quality entertainment with a casual atmosphere makes The Puppet Co. a great place to spend an afternoon with your family!

Running Time: 45 minutes, without an intermission.

Sleeping Beauty plays through March 23, 2014 at The Puppet Co.- 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo Park, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call (301) 634-5380, or purchase them online.

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