BWW Reviews: Adventure Theatre's STUART LITTLE a Story About a Mouse, But Far from Cheesy
Adventure Theatre MTC is kicking off its 63rd season with a triumph.
Above all else, the company's production of STUART LITTLE-based on the celebrated book by E.B. White-accomplishes humor on several levels. There's, of course, hilarious physical comedy as cast members use props to illustrate Stuart's puny stature (in what other world can a normal, tiny key magically turn into a mammoth one?). Then, throughout the performance, there's an underlying snark and awareness of some of the show's more nonsensical aspects (really, how can these humans understand birds, cats and mice?).
But underscoring all this humor is a timeless and valuable story. Whether you know it from White's 1945 book or from the successful 1999 film adaptation (or even if this production serves as your introduction to the world of Stuart Little), the premise remains the same. Stuart, a thoughtful mouse (played by a charming and earnest Chris Dinolfo), is part of a human family in New York City. His dedication is put to the test as drama unfolds, featuring the melodramatic cat Snowball (played by a lively Philip Reid) and his beautiful bird best friend Margalo (played by the delightfully endearing and sweet Emily Zickler).
The five-member cast (including the previously mentioned three, plus the talented Tracey Farrar and Andrew Ferlo), all show remarkable range and agility in changing roles-in fact, the production's staging is done so well that audience fails to notice costume changes happening in the background.
Each of the show's production elements serves a purpose. The inspired and cozy scenic design (by set designer Klyph Stanford) provides a lens into Stuart's comfy New York home, and easily transitions into other locations, such as the Central Park pond. The lighting (by lighting designer Jason Arnold) and background music (by sound designer Matt Otto) highlight drama. The choreography, albeit limited, lends way to a few utterly uproarious scenes. The show's prop work (spearheaded by props designer Dre Moore) deserves particular commendation, allowing for seamless transitions between the world of the human, and the world of the mouse.
The morals emphasized in the show are so well-embedded in this stage adaptation by Joseph Robinette that audiences never quite consciously realize that they're receiving an excellent lesson in courage, determination and resolve. Toward the end of the show, as Stuart works as a substitute teacher in an extremely well-staged scene, he professes to a group of children the value of being nice, as well as the greatness of ice cream and summertime. Indeed, "important" and "silly" are the two words I'd say most precisely describe STUART LITTLE-though children will be delighted to find that "silly" most often takes precedence.
Understudies include Danny Cackley, Ian Brown-Gorelle and Cathryn Benson. The show's production team consists of Colin Hovde (director), Elena Day (assistant director), Kendra Rai (costume designer), Donna Stout (stage manager), Karen Deans (scenic charge) and Lauren Evans (master electrician).
STUART LITTLE runs Tuesdays through Sundays through Oct. 26 at Adventure Theatre MTC, located at 7300 MacArthur Blvd. in Maryland's historic Glen Echo Park. Tickets are $19, with group and field trip rates available, and can be purchased through the box office by calling 301-634-2270, or online at www.adventuretheatre-mtc.org. Children under the age of one are admitted for free.
An American Sign Language performance will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4. A sensory/autism-friendly performance will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 11.
Running Time: Just over one hour, with no intermission.
From This Author Benjamin Reiser