Review: “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” at Adventure Theatre

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Americans don’t know much about the details of the myths and folklore of the Middle and Far East. Many of those stories, which can be found in Sir Richard Burton’s translation of “One Thousand and One Nights,” have been Disney-fied over the years. Adventure Theatre’s version of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (adapted from James Norris’ book of the same title), one of the stories from “One Thousand and One Nights”, was a genuine celebration of the culture and people of the Middle East. As directed by Roberta Gasbarre, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp is a magical feast for the eyes and ears of young and old.

Aladdin (Ryan Carlo) and Princess Adora (Ariana Kruszewski). Photo by Sarah Straub.

The story involves young, adventure-minded Aladdin (the fantastic Ryan Carlo, who excelled in his asides and questions of the audience) and his love, princess Adora (the gifted and lovely Ariana Kruszewski) who as a team face down the nefarious schemes of a shady Magician (the fun to watch Ahmad Kamal), with the help of a kindly Genie (the joyous, twinkle-in-his-eye Scott Ward Abernethy).

The unique superpower of this show is its use of rich stage design and amazing shadow puppetry thanks to Hana Sooyeon Kim, Set and Projections Designer and Lighting Designer Lynn Joslin. Purple, scrim-like strips of fabric, a little less than three-feet wide, served as the projected surface for shadow puppetry. At various times, cloth-draped “boulders” littered the stage. The upstage backdrop consisted of Middle Eastern rugs hung from the ceiling. The show also featured live puppetry and detail-oriented props, including delicious-looking imitation food and the titular lamp, by Props and Puppets Designer Dre Moore.

I loved Thony Mena as Princess Adora’s father, the Sultan. Upon seeing him wearing his resplendent, red-and-gold outfit (thanks to Costume Designer Tyler Gunther), I thought: I want that suit. Francesca Chilcote had a hilarious, frantic turn as Aladdin’s mother. Ariana Almajan was wonderful as Noona/Kalissa. I loved the whirling-dervish like moves of many of the characters and pantomimed horseback riding, which looked authentic thanks to movement consulting done by Silk Road Dance.

Though clearly aimed at younger audiences, the lush and wonderful to look at, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (the fourth show of Adventure Theatre’s 56th season) is clearly a story about the power of belief and the importance of bringing magic into everyday life. Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp is a delightful return to childhood for families and “kids” of all ages.

Running Time: 75 minutes, with no intermission.

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp plays through April 30, 2017 at Adventure Theatre MTC – 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo Park, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call (301) 634-2270, or purchase them online.

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