Review: ‘Tinker Bell’ at Adventure Theatre MTC

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As a parent, it’s hard to watch yet another adaptation of Peter Pan without fixating on the fact that he essentially kidnaps children and leaves grieving parents (specifically mothers, constantly alluded to) behind. Thankfully, Adventure Theatre’s Tinker Bell, directed by Nick Olcott, puts the fairy at the forefront and lets the whole family believe in fairies for an hour instead of worrying about the Lost Boys’ provenance.

Michelle Polera as Tinker Bell. Photo by Michael Horan.

Tinker Bell is a world premiere by DC-area playwright Patrick Flynn who tells the familiar story of Peter Pan from the perspective of the well-known but oft-maligned fairy, Tinker Bell, played with energetic petulance by Michelle Polera. Peter Pan (Carlos Castillo), isn’t the center of attention this time around. Perhaps that is why his character is a tamer, more innocent version of Peter Pan than one might have encountered in other renderings.

In this production, there is much telling rather than showing, including an explanation as to why Tinker Bell often gets a bad rap as too emotional. It seems that fairies are so small, they only have room for one emotion at a time. Though Tinker Bell might not show the most nuanced emotional range, now we at least know why. And in this energetic production, the kids loved her. Like fairies, kids are small and might only have room for one emotion at a time themselves, making Tinker Bell the perfect heroine for the smaller audience members.

The script includes much to laugh at – Smee’s flexible vocabulary, Hook’s upper-crust dimness, and Wendy’s woe-is-me refrains are equally fun for kids and adults. Tinker Bell’s monologue about her feelings regarding Wendy is as hilarious an example of she-doth-protest-too-much as I have ever seen. But the heart of the story is Tinker Bell’s quest for a friend and includes a valuable reminder for young kids and their parents alike: friendship means that you can be mad at someone and still be friends.

Director Nick Olcott has a lot to accomplish on a small stage in a single hour. One way Olcott and Flynn avoided a traffic jam was to render the large cast of Lost Boys and Hook’s crew as puppets. Operated by the cast, they are treated as background so the focus remains on Tinker Bell, Peter, and the difficulties of friendship.

Michelle Polera, Carlos Castillo, and Meghan Abdo. Photo by Michael Horan.

The set designed by Daniel Pinha is attractive and necessarily versatile, which renders it busy both visually and dramatically. Serving as a variety of settings, playing home to several actors, and hosting an arm-load of puppets, there is a lot to look at, which is a treat for the kid-filled audience who may notice something new every minute. Costumes by Moyenda Kulemeka include a stand-out crocodile and traditional, colorful takes on Tinker Bell, Hook, and Peter.

If you suffer from Peter Pan fatigue, this is a refreshing change of perspective on the familiar story with a feisty heroine kids will identify with, laugh at, and love.

Running Time: One hour with no intermission.

Tinker Bell plays through August 19, 2018, at Adventure Theatre MTC – 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call (301)634-2270, or purchase them online.

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