Review: ‘JACK and Phil, Slayers of Giants, INC’ at Imagination Stage

There’s no doubt that you have heard the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, but have you ever heard of JACK and Phil, Slayers of Giants, INC? Imagination Stage has produced Playwright Charles Way’s take on the timeless fairy tale of the boy, who saves his family from losing their house by besting a giant, and gives it a boost into the 21st century, complete with cell phones, the secret service, and music videos. Jack and Phil are good friends and neighbors but the strength of their friendship is tested on this epic adventure, which is full of treasure, daring escapes, and lots and lots of hammers.

(top) Eric M. Messner, (seated) Adi Stein, and Chris Dinolfo. Photo by Margot Schulman.
(top) Eric M. Messner, (seated) Adi Stein, and Chris Dinolfo. Photo by Margot Schulman.

JACK and Phil is directed by Janet Stanford and with the help of her Creative Team, which includes Scenic Designer Daniel Ettinger, Lighting Designer Robert Denton, Sound Designer Christopher Baine, and Costume Designer Debra Kim Sivigny, does a fantastic job bringing this classic tale to life.

The Giant this team has created is a truly larger than life puppet that, with the help of a booming voice-over, my 7 year-old described as “totally freaky”. And the lighting and sound effects produce believable transitions into the Giant’s realm at the top of the bean stalk.

At the center of the story is Jack, played  by Chris Dinolfo, with Adi Stein playing his bff Phil. It is, at first, hard to determine exactly how young the duo is supposed to be but the two are ultimately well-matched, and Dinolfo plays the popular, impulsive, and reckless Jack with ease.

Stein’s Phil is an adorable nerd who shows how far a true friend will go to help a friend in need. Stein’s comedic timing is on-point and he delivers a large portion of the shows laughs with his quiet interjections and subtle mannerisms.

Chris Dinolfo and the golden chicken. Photo: by Margot Schulman.
Chris Dinolfo and the golden chicken. Photo: by Margot Schulman.

Jack’s mother, Barbara (Katy Carkuff), and Phil’s father, Bill (Eric M. Messner), have endearing relationships with each of their kids but are also characters with an obvious underlying connection. Messner is laughable with his awkward and blubbering attempts to talk to Carkuff, who is sadly just too distracted with the impending loss of her home to return his efforts at interaction.

Messner also supplies the voice of the evil, menacing Giant, who gloats about the ways he would devour poor Jack and Phil.

The rest of the roles in the show are played by Jamie Smithson (Bean-Broker/General 1/TV Reporter) and Hayley Travers (Harp/General 2/TV Interviewer).  The two do a great job in each of their diverse rolls but Smithson’s dorky and over-eager TV reporter stands out as his best.  And Travers sassy, egocentric Harp is hilarious.

This comedic adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk is fun and fast-paced and teaches the importance of honesty and true friendship. The theater recommends that the show is best for ages 5 and up, and I agree simply because the Giant is so well done and successfully scary.

Imagination Stage has put together a fantastic cast and creative team. JACK and Phil, Slayers of Giants, INC is a great new twist to an old story and is guaranteed family fun.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

JACK and Phil, Slayers of Giants-INC plays through March 13, 2016 at Imagination Stage – 4908 Auburn Avenue in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 280-1660, or purchase them online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif


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