‘Pinocchio’ at The Puppet Co. by Julia L. Exline

The Puppet Co. presents Pinocchio, the classic story of a wooden puppet’s adventurous quest to become a real, live boy! Directed by Allan Stevens, this production is recommended to be enjoyed by children ages five and up.

The action takes place in front of a screen, which changes locations of the setting throughout the show. Designed by Allan Stevens, the illustrated backgrounds look as if they are plucked from a whimsical storybook, and range from the interior of a cozy cottage, to inside the jaws of a whale! Perhaps my favorite setting was one that was drawn to resemble the attractions of Glen Echo Park, right down to the detailed “Popcorn” shack. It is a sweet little nod to the surrounding park, in which The Puppet Co. resides. Stevens also designs the delicately crafted, always-impressive puppets, as well as the costumes. This is one busy man! Lighting design by Dan Brooks compliments the changing tones of the plot, and the performers (Chrisopher Piper, Mayfield Piper, and (again!) Allan Stevens) do a fantastic job.

Pinocchio, the Talking Cricket, and Gepetto. Photo by Christopher Piper.
Pinocchio and The Blue Fairy. Photo courtesy of The Puppet Co.

The production begins as a poor, elderly carpenter named Geppetto surveys a large block of wood, wondering what to make out of it. When he finally decides to make a puppet, the blocks of wood comes to life, and, not too keen on being carved and cut, is chased around the cottage by Geppetto in a fun scene, until he is finally caught and carved into a handsome puppet. However, Pinocchio is not a very polite puppet. He is selfish, and dismisses warnings from a wise cricket, who warns, “Those who will not listen and will not learn will become perfect donkeys.” Geppetto decides to send Pinocchio to school, where, on the way, he becomes entangled with many different characters.

A sneezy Fire Eater (which is really Piper in an elaborate, impressive puppet costume) takes pity on Pinocchio and gives him some money, which is then stolen from a conniving cat and fox. Frustrated and distressed, Pinocchio is visited by The Blue Fairy, who lets it be known that his true wish can be attained through bravery, selflessness, and honesty. Pinocchio does not get off to a great start, as his nose visibly grows inches with every lie he tells. What follows this proclamation is a wild adventure, involving donkeys, magic, brave feats…and more lies. Can Pinocchio prove himself worthy of his wish?

The Puppet Co. is known for favoring traditional, well-loved stories for their productions, and I have yet to see a youngster disappointed. While the audience is usually familiar with these tales, they are also shown a rawer version of them, instead of the sugar-coated Disney version that they are accustomed to. This is a wonderful idea, and guarantees that while the children are interested and engaged, they are also shown that there is more than one way to tell a beloved story, and they often come up with versions of their own as they excitedly leave the venue.

I see imagination encouraged and uplifted every time I visit The Puppet Co., and I highly recommend Pinocchio for an afternoon of family fun!

Running Time is approximately 45 minutes, without an intermission.

Pinocchio runs through June 3, 2012 at The Puppet Co. in Glen Echo Park – 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call (301) 634-5380, or order them online.


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