My three-year old son and I sat with about forty restless children and their haggard parents in a crowded playroom while we waited for Drumming with Dishes to begin. I was especially nervous, because my son is still too young to sit through any extended show of any type. And I knew my worry wasn’t isolated; I could read the other parents’ grim expressions. I knew they were wondering if they’d have to resort to the same tool all parents nowadays use to distract our children – the chance for them to play with our iPhones, and accept the harsh judgment of all the other parents in the room.
After a short wait, we were led to a large rec room that served as the stage. The stage was sparse, nothing but a mock kitchen counter-top. Malinda Kathleen Reese (Child) was already out, playfully arranging bowls and boxes of pasta in different configurations, and Cristian Linares (musical accompaniment) was softly strumming a guitar on the side of the makeshift stage. Once the children were settled, Julia Klavans (in the role of Friend) mischievously emerged, and the performance began.
“Where are the drums?” my three-year old asked after about ten minutes, a bit too loudly, and he had a point – the title is a misnomer. I was expecting a version of Stomp targeted for toddlers, but was relieved that wasn’t the case. Drumming with Dishes does have moments where kitchenware is used for musical effect, but it’s certainly not constant. Instead, we were treated to a soft, gentle story, marked by moments of humor.
The script is without speech, but both Reese and Klavans are experienced at performing for children, and their wide eyes, big smiles, overly animated expressions, and bright silly outfits kept the audience captivated. That said, direct participation with children is extremely limited. A few children were handed pasta boxes to shake, but only a few, and just once or twice during the show. Similarly, only a couple of songs were intended for the children to accompany.
But that’s a small quibble, and I mention it here in case you need to dissuade your children of the notion ahead of time that they’ll be joyfully pounding pots and pans. The choreography between Reese, Klavins, and Linares is acute, and the story they perform is wonderfully engaging to watch. Perhaps the greatest testament is that, in a room of forty-plus children, I didn’t see one leave during the entire show. Not one iPhone was unlocked.
And my son asked if we could see it again.
Running Time: 30 minutes with no intermission.
Drumming with Dishes plays through October 21, 2017 at Arts on the Horizon performing at The Lab at Convergence — 1819 N. Quaker Lane in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 967-0437, or purchase them online.