NextStop Theatre Company joins up with the Faction of Fools Theatre Company to present a retelling of the childhood classic, Pinocchio! based on the novel by Carlo Collodi and written and directed by Paul Reisman. Faction of Fools Theatre Company specializes in the genre of Commedia dell’Arte, a highly expressive form of masked physical comedy that pairs incredibly well with the lively adventures of Pinocchio!
Scenic Designer Daniel Flint cleverly sets the scene with a grand marionette frame, classically designed with sweeping velvet curtains that reveal a number of different painted sceneries, including the interior of a simple cabin and a town square. Jesse Terrill composed the musical score for this production, relying mainly on natural elements like raindrops, winds, and waves. The elemental design that truly impressed me were the costumes by Lynly A. Saunders and masks by Tara Cariaso and Aaron Elson of Waxing Moon Masks. The costumes are bright and creative, with fun cut-outs, patterns, and accessories, while the masks are, simply put, true works of art. Seemingly made of weathered wood, they are artistic and professional, and give the characters a somewhat grand quality that is both majestic and intimidating.
When the lonely Geppetto (Toby Mulford) finds himself inexplicably talking to a large block of wood, he begins carving until a handsome marionette is revealed, a miraculous living puppet whom he names Pinocchio (Jack Novak). Taking him on as a son, Geppetto sends Pinocchio off to school, who finds himself distracted by his new surroundings. A wandering Pinocchio is warned by a lurking Cricket (a plush hand puppet designed by Daniel Mori and operated by Alani Kravitz), who warns, “Woe to the boys who rebel against their papas.”
We know that Pinocchio succumbs to the tempting adventures…and what adventures they are! Puppet theatres, trickery and scheming with a Fox and Cat (Toby Mulford and Hannah Sweet), the deceptive “Land of Fun and Games,” and even being swallowed by a whale! Through these, life lessons are learned about family and friendship, lessons that form Pinocchio into the boy that he truly is!
This talented troupe was a great joy to watch, with four of the cast members taking on multiple roles and giving varied, expressive performances for every new character. The physical antics were extremely impressive, with the actors climbing, jumping, and twisting around each other in true acrobatic form. They even formed themselves into the giant whale that swallowed Pinocchio, which was amazing to watch. Jack Novak especially stood out as Pinocchio, having to constrict his movements as a puppet and even hanging his jaw slack as a proper marionette would. The performances were bursting with energy, and the whole production was visually stunning.
I had a fantastic time at NextStop Theatre Company and the Faction of Fools Theatre Company’s co-production of Pinocchio!
Pinocchio! is great fun for the entire family, and I very highly recommend it. Don’t miss this one! You’ll have a whale of a good time – and I’m not lying!
Running Time: 50 minutes, without an intermission.
Pinocchio! plays through March 30, 2014 at NextStop Theatre Company performing at The Industrial Strength Theater – 269 Sunset Park Drive, in Herndon, VA. For tickets, call (703) 481-5930, or purchase them online.