2016 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Barry Beaver’s Adventures in Happy Valley’

Sometimes, what you think you don’t want, is exactly what you need. And sometimes, comfort and joy are found in the unlikeliest of places. After a week which sent shockwaves through the country and shook most of us to our core, a week which made me fearful to even turn on the television, go online or open a newspaper, I did not expect to find solace amongst a group of toddlers and their parents in a place called Happy Valley getting to know its animal inhabitants and learning or, rather, relearning, some of life’s simplest lessons: take only what you need, be honest, friendship is more important than material things and, perhaps most significantly, don’t judge someone based on the way they look.


Yet there I was. And towards the end of Barry Beaver’s Adventures in Happy Valley, adapted by Anne Laffoon (who also designed the eye-popping costumes) and Patrick DiBattista (who also directed and has a silent recurring role that I won’t give away) from stories by Pete Frost who also narrates the show as “Granddad”, as I was standing with the rest of the kids, and the cast (Joshua Kiggins, Michael Brassfield, Sophie Deleo, Melanie Zehner, and Bettina Stap) and doing The Flying Squirrel dance (the animated choreography is by Ms. Deleo), having given myself completely and totally over to the piece, this 40-something reviewer, without the slightest bit of cynicism or irony, eyes welling up with tears, sang out

We are squirrels
We are flying squirrels
Do another twirl
We are flying squirrels.

and forgot for a brief period of time, that despite all of the awfulness in the world, there are countless children, for whom everything is wonderful, for whom Happy Valley is attainable. It was nice to be in that place, even for such a short time. Their sense of wonder, my friends, is what it’s all about.

Some say chicken soup is a panacea. Some say hot tea. But let me tell you, I have it on good advice that the surest way to chase away what ails you is the choreography for the Funky Skunk. The huge smile on the three-year old next to me was all the proof I needed.

Running Time: 50 minutes, with no intermission.


Barry Beaver’s Adventures in Happy Valley plays through July 24, 2016 at Atlas Performing Arts Center Lab II – 1333 H Street NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2016 Capital Fringe Page.


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David Gerson
David Gerson is a writer and attorney who lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland. Prior to attending law school, he worked in the theatrer industry in New York City. He worked on numerous Broadway shows including Rent, Hairspray, Crybaby and Metamorphoses. He was also the General Manager of New York Stage and Film. He has produced and developed new plays by various writers including Jenny Schwartz, Nathan Parker, and Sarah Overman. David received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, his MFA from Columbia University, and his JD from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. A collection of David’s writing was published in the fall of 2021 by Life in 10 Minutes Press and is available here.


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