BWW Review: TINKER BELL Joyfully Flies to Adventure Theatre MTC

BWW Review: TINKER BELL Joyfully Flies to Adventure Theatre MTC
Michelle Polera as Tinker Bell.
Photo by DJ Corey Photography.

Peter Pan is possibly one of the most commonly adapted and re-adapted works for the stage. From Peter and the Starcatcher to Finding Neverland and everything in between, there are constant tweaks and updates to this classic that make it resonate with new generations. Adventure Theatre's newest adaption, Tinker Bell, is a good family-friendly adaptation and is worth visiting just for the sheer fun. Patrick Flynn's script, however, runs out of pixie dust before the work can reveal anything about the story that hasn't already been heard.

Tinker Bell faithfully follows the plot of Peter Pan. As fairy populations begin to dwindle, Tinker Bell (Michelle Polera) worries that she will remain alone forever on her island. When she sneaks away to London, the sprite is followed back by an excited Peter (Carlos Castillo) who is determined to never grow up. The two create a strong friendship-the only friend that Tinker Bell has ever known-and Neverland comes to life around them. With a lively island, more inhabitants are inevitable. Eventually, the island (and Adventure Theatre's stage) are flooded with Lost Boys, pirates and the Darlings. Tink's friendship with Peter which once seemed so simple is complicated by these new factors and her jealousy threatens to derail their relationship. Of course they are able to mend bridges, fend off invading pirates, and generally live happily ever after as the best of friends.

Tinker Bell's production team does an excellent job of bringing as much magic as possible to Adventure Theatre's intimate space. Daniel Pinha's set is striking from the moment you walk into the room. With crisp lines and intriguing architecture, the largely wooden space provides an ideal backdrop for the rest of the team. Everything is versatile, as well, with set features often being used in two or three different ways throughout the show. For instance, a staircase becomes a chest of drawers which can then later become part of the forest. Members of the cast do excellent work in setting up and tearing down set pieces like Neverland's flowers and a large painted backdrop. Every move with the set is quick, efficient, and maintains the magic of the performance.

BWW Review: TINKER BELL Joyfully Flies to Adventure Theatre MTC
Carlos Castillo as Peter Pan.
Photo by Amanda Bradley.

Moyenda Kulemeka's costumes are straightforward and feature typical Peter Pan fare like foliage-adorned actors and nightgowns. Her simpler designs are necessary in a show where some performers are playing multiple roles. For these purposes, Andrea "Dre" Moore's puppet design creates one of the most original (and humorous) aspects of this production. Instead of flooding the stage with a dozen pirates, one actor carries out a display of pirate puppets. The effect is as goofy as it sounds but it is an entertaining one for both adults and children alike.

The rest of the technical team is strong. Sarah Tundermann's lighting design helps to bring Tink's magic to life with occasional effects. Small balls of light are also occasionally used throughout the performance to represent Tinker Bell's actual size. Neil McFadden's sound design is well done but doesn't have many moments to shine, except perhaps when the crocodile shows up. On a weaker note, Jenny Male's fight choreography is occasionally clunky-but I'll chalk that up to a small space and the family friendly nature of the show. You can't be too over-enthusiastic with fight choreography when there are children present after all.

Ms. Polera is a great Tinker Bell who, I believe, has even more talent than what she is able to show in this production. The fairy is written into a corner early in the show when de facto narrators Wendy (Meghan Abdo) and Mr. Smee (Topher Williams) explain that Tink is only able to process one emotion at a time. It's clear that Ms. Polera is capable of showing multiple levels in her characters but that urge is so often pushed aside in favor of one-note emotions which match the script. When retelling an oft-repeated tale from a character's point of view (in this case Tinker Bell), it would be nice to see more complexity.

BWW Review: TINKER BELL Joyfully Flies to Adventure Theatre MTC
Michelle Polera (Tinker Bell) and the company of Tinker Bell.
Photo by Amanda Bradley.

Thus, it is crucial to look to Patrick Flynn's script. After Peter Pan's early introduction, Tinker Bell too often fades into the background of scenes. Several humorous asides are sprinkled throughout but don't occur consistently enough to construct the story fully from Tink's point of view. There's a brilliant monologue (heightened by a sass-filled Ms. Polera) which breaks down Tinker Bell's inescapable distaste for Wendy but, other than that, Tinker Bell's voice is unclear throughout. Even the structuring of the story (with Wendy and Smee breaking action) distances Tinker Bell from the center of the plot. If this is her version of events, Tinker Bell should have a more active role in propelling the plot forward instead of just letting actions unfold around her.

As director, Nick Olcott squeezes every possible ounce of magic out of this production. Smartly utilizing the floor between the audience and the stage, characters like the impressively designed Tick-Tock Crock are able to get up close to audience members. Though Adventure's space isn't rigged for flying on wires, Mr. Olcott creates his own magic with impressive lifts that appear effortless for the skilled company.

If you've never been to Adventure Theatre, this is a great starter production. There is enough for both adults and children to make it appeal to everyone. The story is a classic and, while there isn't as much of a new angle as might be desired, the characters are brought to life again thanks to a talented cast and creative team. After all, it's never a bad time to visit Neverland.

Tinker Bell is playing through August 19 at Adventure Theatre MTC in the historic Glen Echo Park. For more information about Adventure Theatre MTC or Tinker Bell, call 301-634-2270 or click here.

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BWW Review: TINKER BELL Joyfully Flies to Adventure Theatre MTC

Sam Abney is a Washington, D.C. based arts professional. A native of Arizona, he has happily made D.C. his new home. Sam is a graduate from George Mason University with a degree in Communication and currently works for Arena Stage as a member of their Development team. He is a life-long lover of theater and is excited about sharing his passion with as many people as possible.

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