Adventure Theatre MTC’s production of Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt is sure to please both children and parents. The play, a first-of-its-kind, collaborative creation in concert with seven theaters nationwide, pulls the character of the beloved Judy Moody from the books by Megan McDonald and brings her to the stage in a charming, lovingly told tale.
The play tells the story of Judy, her brother Stink, and her delightfully overactive imagination as they embark on a treasure hunt during a family trip to Ocracoke Island. As is typical with productions by Adventure Theatre, director Mitchell Hebert makes the most of the space, filling the small stage with big personalities and engaging numbers without the stage ever feeling crowded.
And it’s a testament to Kelsey Painter’s portrayal of Judy that the third-grader comes off as recognizably adolescent without being grating–not easy, given that Judy is prone to exasperation, tantrums, and roaring when she doesn’t get her way. Of course, that’s an iconic conceit of the character, but the production’s constant employment of her imagination and the storyline’s (adapted by Allison Gregory) moments of kindness provide a strong balance to her less than desirable traits.
But Painter isn’t alone; the entire cast is strong (especially Phil Da Costa as her long-suffering brother, Stink), and the energy they bring to their roles is contagious. In the performance I saw, smiles rarely left the faces of parents or children in the audience. And, as all good family entertainment does, the performance offers knowing winks to parents (with references to both M.C. Hammer and the Beatles).
The play runs at a brisk pace, likely due to the work of Hebert and his assistant and movement director, Kathy Gordon – which is also important when you have an hour-long running time and kids as young as four in the audience. It is a bit dark at times; Sarah Tundermann’s lighting is occasionally sparse, but that does lend to the imaginative elements of Judy’s fantasies. Paige Hathaway’s set design is also limited, but the cast and crew make quick set changes, and the audience will have no problem believing they’ve been transported to the Moody family’s vacation.
As has been written in this space before, Adventure Theatre was recently hit by a fire. The performing space was, mercifully, spared, but the offices were damaged – the smoke and fire cost over half a million in repairs, and the canceled performances resulted in $27,000 of lost revenue. The theater, located in historic Glen Echo Park, is one of the best venues for family activities in the entire DC/MD/VA area, and could use your support. I’ve taken my son to a number of Adventure Theatre productions, and it’s easily one of our favorite activities. If you can, please consider donating to their recovery efforts. And make a point to take your children to see Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt.
Running Time: One hour, with no intermission.
Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt plays through June 3, 2018, at Adventure Theatre MTC – 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 634-2270, or purchase them online.