‘P.Nokio: A Hip-Hop Musical’ at Imagination Stage by Grace Kim

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If you missed P.Nokio: A Hip-Hop Musical the last time it played at Imagination Stage earlier this February, or if you have not heard of it yet, grab your kids, your nephews or nieces, or some kids in your hood and go see this encore presentation of a ‘Pinocchio meets Hip-Hop’ play at Imagination Stage. Delivering a triple knock-out by writing, directing, and acting, Psalmayene 24 impressed the heck out of me and my 8 year-old. And the design is stunning: Ethan Sinnott’s two-tiered set, great sound effects by Nick Hernandez, hip costumes by Kendra Rai, and cool projections by Erik Tester added to the fun!

The ‘P.NOKIO’ Company: clockwise from top left: Paige Hernandez, Psalmayene 24, James Johnson, Katy Carkuff, and Jacob Yeh. Photo byy Scott Suchman.

It was a lot of fun to hear the story told in hip-hop rap and dance, and the fact that the storyline doesn’t follow the exact story of Pinocchio doesn’t lose its appeal. If anything, it adds to it because the play infuses modern day dilemmas kids face and portrays how bad decisions lead to bad consequences. In the end, the moral of the story hits home in a real way that the older Pinocchio story doesn’t.

In the land of Hiphopia, P.Nokio has to choose between going to “Old School” where he would learn the art of proper rhymes, or “Fun,” which equates to trouble in the “Land of Fools.” The lure of foregoing right decisions for fitting in and being cool, peer pressure, quick money, and the easier way are just  a few of the dilemmas P.Nokio confronts, just like any kid in today’s world. Of course, throughout the play, the theme of “lying is wrong” is also a lesson P.Nokio learns. Some people learn from the “school of hard knocks,” but hopefully, some will learn from those who learned the hard way and who try to impart their wisdom- – dropping signs” if you’re down with the lingo  – and that is a strong message communicated in this play.

G. Petto (James J. Johnson) is a computer game designer who creates the game character P.Nokio. G.Petto is a hard-working man who has to produce, produce, and produce for the hard-driving filthy rich Machine Master (Jacob Yeh). Real life reflected in art? Yes, please.The masterful real-life scenarios that incorporate references that only the adults got helped keep them engaged and chuckling out loud. P.Nokio also engaged the kids by getting them to participate during some scenes.The spectacular cast of P.Nokio also includes Paige Hernandez (Graffiti Fairy, Choreographer), Jacob Yeh (Fox/Skelly/Machine Master), and Katy Carkuff (Crony/Cat/Fork). Their energetic performances really got the crowd going and the kids, as well as the adults, were loving it!

The Graffiti Fairy (Paige Hernandez) scolds P.Nokio (Psalmayene 24) for lying. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Running Time: 90 minutes with one intermission.

P.Nokio: A Hip-Hop Musical plays through October 18, 2012 at Imagination Stage – 4908 Auburn Avenue in Bethesda, MD. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at (301) 280-1660 or by purchasing them online.