Review: “Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are In A Play!'” by Adventure Theatre & ATMTC Academy

The beloved characters from Mo Willems' children's books come to life in this musical theater production.

Elephant and Piggie, two delightful characters based on the Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems, come to life in Adventure Theatre’s musical theatre production, Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are In A Play!” The two friends interact in song and movement and sweep you into the details of a dramatic and heartfelt day as best buddies. Directed by Cara Gabriel, Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are In A Play!” leads the audience through recognizable scenarios, the fun of participation, and a sense of belonging.

Derrick Truby and Karen Vincent in "Elephant & Piggie: 'We Are In A Play!'" at Adventure Theatre. Photo by Bruce Douglas.
Derrick Truby and Karen Vincent in “Elephant & Piggie: ‘We Are In A Play!'” at Adventure Theatre. Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Derrick Truby is Gerald, a good guy Elephant who is there to catch Piggie as she falls, to extend her off-kilter balance, and to support in a big bear hug as she leaps into his arms.  Gerald claims he can’t dance, but all the naysaying brings forth a fine dance, with streamlined tap, ballet, and all the good fun that Choreographer Dane Figueroa Edidi throws into the mix.

Karen Vincent as Piggie is delightfully pink and polished. Costume Designer Jeannette Christensen has given her a bouncy skirt, and plenty of poofy petticoats to match. Elephant dons a sweater vest and the shoulder-length ears for the part, gray, floppy and friendly.  The perfectly mismatched pair Elephant & Piggie are a delightful team as they consider important questions of the day through high-energy songs with Music Direction by Matthew Dohm.

Whether considering a favorite toy, dealing with unintended consequences, deciding to go to a party or sharing an ice cream, Elephant and Piggie have some friends to emphasize each detail. The Squirrelles, a three-part harmony back up group, add quick one-liners in word, intonation, and song that get an immediate response, bringing big booming laughs from the audience. There’s plenty for adults to find in all this fun. Played by Kelli Blackwell, Alex De Bard, and Da’Von Moody, the Squirrelles add comic timing in gestures as simple as poking a head in the doorway or the sound from an everyday handheld instrument. There’s plenty of coming and going too, as characters appear and disappear, building the intensity by running away, or reappearing in an unexpected way.

Scenic Designer Andrew R. Cohen provides a well-defined setting, making use of nice touches that recall a backstage fly system, adding stage equipment like a ladder and trunk used smartly by the performers. The gradually changing scenes shift in tone and intention with bright illumination, highlights in color or isolated moments with Lighting Design by Jason Arnold.

Props, tools, and toys (including a fine ice cream cart) add to the experience, as is easily seen by observing an audience of children rapt with attention and adults eager to find the fun. With wonderful singers, dancers and a brilliant storyline of seemingly unconnected moments which nevertheless connect, Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are In a Play!”, which was commissioned by and debuted at the Kennedy Center, provides audiences with a grand treat. The cast and production team at Adventure Theatre have done a fine job with Playwright Mo Willems’ story. Go to Glen Echo Park and find the fun!

Running Time: 50 minutes with no intermission.

Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are In a Play!” plays through October 27, 2019, at Adventure Theatre MTC, 7300 MacArthur Blvd (Glen Echo Park), Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call 301-634-2270 or go online.


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