2016 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Barry Beaver’s Adventures in Happy Valley’

Sometimes, what you think you don’t want, is exactly what you need. And sometimes, comfort and joy are found in the unlikeliest of places. After a week which sent shockwaves through the country and shook most of us to our core, a week which made me fearful to even turn on the television, go online or open a newspaper, I did not expect to find solace amongst a group of toddlers and their parents in a place called Happy Valley getting to know its animal inhabitants and learning or, rather, relearning, some of life’s simplest lessons: take only what you need, be honest, friendship is more important than material things and, perhaps most significantly, don’t judge someone based on the way they look.


Yet there I was. And towards the end of Barry Beaver’s Adventures in Happy Valley, adapted by Anne Laffoon (who also designed the eye-popping costumes) and Patrick DiBattista (who also directed and has a silent recurring role that I won’t give away) from stories by Pete Frost who also narrates the show as “Granddad”, as I was standing with the rest of the kids, and the cast (Joshua Kiggins, Michael Brassfield, Sophie Deleo, Melanie Zehner, and Bettina Stap) and doing The Flying Squirrel dance (the animated choreography is by Ms. Deleo), having given myself completely and totally over to the piece, this 40-something reviewer, without the slightest bit of cynicism or irony, eyes welling up with tears, sang out

We are squirrels
We are flying squirrels
Do another twirl
We are flying squirrels.

and forgot for a brief period of time, that despite all of the awfulness in the world, there are countless children, for whom everything is wonderful, for whom Happy Valley is attainable. It was nice to be in that place, even for such a short time. Their sense of wonder, my friends, is what it’s all about.

Some say chicken soup is a panacea. Some say hot tea. But let me tell you, I have it on good advice that the surest way to chase away what ails you is the choreography for the Funky Skunk. The huge smile on the three-year old next to me was all the proof I needed.

Running Time: 50 minutes, with no intermission.


Barry Beaver’s Adventures in Happy Valley plays through July 24, 2016 at Atlas Performing Arts Center Lab II – 1333 H Street NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2016 Capital Fringe Page.


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David Gerson is a writer and attorney who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Prior to attending law school, David worked in the theater industry in New York City, where he was a producer and manager. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, a Master’s degree from Columbia University, and a JD from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. David is a proud board member of Iron Crow Theatre, Baltimore’s only queer theater company. “Lost and Found,” David’s recent collection of personal essays, will be published in fall 2021 in Unzipped, Issue 4, a publication of the Life in 10 Minutes Project, and can be purchased here.


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