BWW Review: MY FATHER'S DRAGON Dazzles Both Children and Adults at Synetic Theater
I've come to expect the unexpected from Synetic Theater's exquisite, wordless productions. Somehow they're always able to dazzle me, and their holiday season production of MY FATHER'S DRAGON, based on Ruth Stiles Gannett's children's novel, is an absolute gem. Wide-eyed performers, memorable scenes, and delightfully complex puppets (puppet design by Matthew McGee) make this one a must-see for children (5+) and adults alike.
Director Tori Tolentino understands the childhood yearning for adventure that never quite leaves us when we reach adulthood. Enhanced by wondrous music and sound design (Konstantine Lortkipanidze), and scenic design spun from fantasy (Phil Charlwood), Tolentino brings to life a vibrant vision that transports audiences to another world on the wings of an adorable dragon.
This is a classic adventure tale in which an orphan boy (expressive and charming Scott Whalen) and a cat (bright and slinky Sharisse Taylor) team up to rescue a baby dragon who is imprisoned by a gorilla on Wild Island. The boy and cat must overcome various obstacles, ranging from a warthog and his mouse sidekick to a truly impressive rhinoceros, in order to save the newly hatched dragon. Puppets infused with personality represent most of the island's wildlife. The way the actors animated the puppets, coupled with each creature's specific musical theme, was enough to ignite multiple cases of spontaneous applause from the opening night audience.
Unlike other plays geared towards young ones, MY FATHER'S DRAGON never employs exaggerated, simplistic dialogue. Its wordlessness automatically lends it gravity and maturity. Like watching a Pixar short film, I was overcome by real emotions and genuinely amused by each clever turn of events -- not overtaken by the notion that I would have enjoyed it more if I were a kid.
Family entertainment options are abundant this time of year, but few pieces of theater can offer this abundance of pure creativity and universal enjoyment. MY FATHER'S DRAGON is a sure bet for every generation.
Running time: approximately 60 minutes with no intermission.
MY FATHER'S DRAGON runs through January 6, 2019, at Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St. in Crystal City, Arlington, VA 22202. Tickets can be purchased at synetictheater.org or by calling (866) 811-4111.
Photo: From left, Scott Whalen (Elmer Elevator), Nutsa Tediashvili (Ensemble), and Sharisse Taylor (Cat/Ensemble) in MY FATHER'S DRAGON at Synetic Theater; photo by Johnny Shryock, courtesy of Synetic Theater.