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BWW Review: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE at Adventure Theatre MTC

BWW Review: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE at Adventure Theatre MTC
Audrey Bertaux as Lucy and Chris Dinolfo as Aslan. Photo by Sarah Straub.

When you think of C.S. Lewis' story The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe being dramatized, you generally think of it being done with a good-sized cast and a variety of special effects. Adventure Theatre MTC in Maryland's Glen Echo Park goes against the well-established thought that you have to bombard the audience with stimulation at every turn when presenting this story. Two actors tell the story and - in terms of the production concept - there is only a hint of the special effects you might see in a more elaborate presentation of the story. I prefer the less is more approach and this production, ably and brilliantly directed by Tom Story, reaffirms the notion that good, old-fashioned storytelling wins out over big splashy production elements. When the magic is in the writing, it doesn't need much else, especially if the direction and acting is solid.

Le Clanche Du Rand's stage adaptation makes Lucy and Peter Pevensie the base characters, meaning performers Audrey Bertaux and Chris Dinolfo start the show in these roles and act as the storytellers. By just adding a pair of glasses, Dinolfo becomes Edmund, Lucy and Peter's brother. When Bertaux adds a white hat, she is transformed into a queen complete with some delicious Turkish delight, or the evil White Witch who controls Narnia and turns everything into stone.

Those of you familiar with the source material - or the subsequent movie and stage adaptations - might be wondering how this production deals with the beloved great lion, Aslan. After all, he is one of the pivotal characters in the Narnia stories. Costume Designer Tyler Gunther ingeniously has set a lion print over the top of an umbrella so when Kenny Neal's sound design kicks in for the battle between Aslan and the White Witch, it's theatrical magic at its finest.

Lucianna Stecconi (Set Designer) has also figured out an inventive way to take us to the magical world of Narnia without a major set change. I'm not giving anything away but Lighting Designer Sarah Tundermann is in on the reveal. Stecconi places the ever-essential magical wardrobe in Professor Digory Kirke's home in a prominent position - upstage front and center.

BWW Review: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE at Adventure Theatre MTC
Audrey Bertaux as Mr. Tumnus and Chris Dinolfo as Edmund. Photo by Michael Horan.

Under Tom Story's direction, Bertaux and Dinolfo give us a master class in acing. Every characterization is distinct so you are never confused as to which character is being portrayed. Elena Day's movement work also helps to further establish the characters as do Tyler Gunther's costume designs.

For those that think this production is only for older children, I'm here to tell you that it's not. At the performance I attended, the production held the youngest audience members from beginning to end. Adventure Theatre MTC's production is a good way to introduce these young theatergoers to the classic material even if they aren't ready for what some might deem the more serious and scarier version.

For something a little different from the standard holiday fare, take your family to Adventure Theatre MTC's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe this holiday season. It features two great actors, one great director, delightful (but not overpowering) production elements, and the classic story by C.S. Lewis. Nothing else is required to make this theatrical experience a highpoint for you and your entire family.

Running Time: 50 minutes with no intermission.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe runs through December 31st 2016 at Adventure Theatre MTC which is located in Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd, Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, click here.

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