Review: ‘Len Piper’s Pinocchio’ at The Puppet Company

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The Puppet Co. presents Len Piper’s Pinocchio, an adaptation of the classic story of a wooden puppet’s adventurous quest to become a real, live boy! Inspired by the book of Carlo Collodi, script-writer Leonard Piper highlights the original Italian influences in this production with great success. Directed by Allan Stevens, this production is recommended to be enjoyed by children ages five and up.

Photo courtesy of The Puppet Co.

Photo courtesy of The Puppet Co.

The Puppet Company family is a small one– including performing, production, and technical crew, their number of staff usually remains under ten. Each person wears many hats. For example, Director Allan Stevens also designed the set, costumes, and performs in this production! While the staff is small, the productions are not: set constructor and painter Eric Brooks transforms the stage into a beautiful, multi-leveled Tuscan cottage, with a large screen center stage that shows a variety of video animations by Puppet Master Christopher Piper. From a bustling county fair to the inside of a whale, the animations show a large variety of settings throughout the show. My favorite setting was under the sea; a scene where bright, neon puppets
(schools of fish, stingrays, and eels, to name a few) swim against colorful coral and streams of bubbles. Costumer Mayfield Piper uses dated pieces such as long tights and feathered hats to easily place the production in the late 1800s.

When a lonely carpenter named Geppetto decides to carve himself a son from a block of wood, the result is not what he expects. Pinocchio is a mean and selfish puppet, rebuffing Geppetto’s kindness and arguing with the household cricket, Jiminy. When the Blue Fairy (a glittery, glamorous puppet full of Southern charm) shares that Pinocchio will only becomes a real boy when he discovers how to love, the puppet begins an adventurous journey and discovers new emotions with every turn. After a pair of manipulative strangers lead him into a dangerous world full of greed and deceit, Pinocchio must find a way to save himself…and then Geppetto, who has ventured out into the choppy sea looking for his son. When guilt, fear, and regret lend to bravery and resolve, Pinocchio finds out who he really is once his strings are cut.

While Allan Stevens is the only performer who appears onstage, Joshua Aaron Rosenblum, Christopher Piper, and Elizabeth Dapo lend their voices and puppetry skills to a variety of marionettes, all beautifully crafted by Leonard Piper. The puppets are, after all, the main attraction, and they earn their keep– from a delicate and graceful ballerina to a furry, oversized fox, the puppets are always a treat to watch. There are a few dramatic scenes in this show as well and I love the way that they are handled; one particularly creative scene involved some imaginative shadow work.

The Puppet Co. is known for favoring traditional, well-loved stories for their productions, and I have yet to see a youngster disappointed. This is the second version of Pinocchio that I’ve seen at The Puppet Company; wildly different from one produced a couple of years ago, but just as enjoyable. While the audience is usually familiar with these tales, they are usually given rawer versions of them instead of the Disney versions that they are accustomed to. This guarantees that while the children are interested and engaged, they are also shown that there is more than one way to tell a beloved story, and they often come up with versions of their own as they excitedly leave the venue. I see imagination encouraged and uplifted every time I visit The Puppet Co., and I highly recommend Pinocchio for an afternoon of family fun!

Running Time: 45 minutes, without an intermission.

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Len Piper’s Pinocchio plays through February 21, 2016 at The Puppet Co.- in Glen Echo Park – 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call (301) 634-5380, or order them online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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