By kids’ theatre reporter Valeria Lamarra with Tim Treanor
Huck Finn’s Story, at the Imagination Stage, is a pretty good show. Not great, but pretty good.
Huck Finn (Matthew McGloin) was a young boy who ran way from his mean pap (Michael John Casey) to nearby Jackson’s Island. There he met another runaway – Jim (Donovan Hagins), a slave who is trying to win his freedom by escaping to Ohio. Even though Huck knew he was “supposed” to turn Jim in, his sympathies were with his new friend’s desire to be free, and he ended up doing everything he could to help Jim. They set forth on the Mississippi River in a raft. Two scoundrels and con artists (Casey and Jonathan Watkins) almost capture Jim, but Huck and Tom Sawyer’s Aunt Sally (Lisa Lias), helped by some lucky coincidences, defeat them.
Imagination Stage lives up to its name: They used a great deal of imagination in the production, and invited the audience to use its own imagination to help move things along. I particularly liked how they showed they were on the raft, and how they climbed from the raft into a house which had fallen into the river. If you had read the book and had seen those events in a certain way, you could still think of the story that same way even after the show.
There was a lot about this show I liked. I liked that they used live musicians, who doubled in other parts (Casey, Lias, Watkins and Steve McWilliams). Everybody had a good “country” accent. McGloin as Huck had a great deal of energy. He did cartwheels and other acrobatics. He was a man, but his energy made him seem much younger. The scoundrels were certainly scoundrels.
There was a lot of singing and dancing in this show. Jim sang and danced more than anyone else. He was very good but when he sang he lost a lot of his country accent.
There were a couple of things that made me enjoy it less than I otherwise would. There were periods when nothing happened on stage. The one I remember especially was when Jim seemed to be taking materials to the back of the raft. He went backstage and nobody did anything for a little bit.
Aunt Sally seemed a little too excitable to be an aunt. I don’t see adults jumping around like that.
This appears to be a show for kids about ages 7-11. I don’t think kids older than that would enjoy it.
But if your kid is in the right age range, and has a good imagination, I think he’ll enjoy it. If you have a good imagination, you might too.
Tim Treanor here. I’d like to underscore what Valeria said about the age range for this show. The bulk of the audience seemed to be in the 7-9 set, and they were plenty amused. Kids 12 and up might be bored, though. By the same token, notwithstanding the company’s capable work, this is not one of those shows which entertain children on one level and adults on another. This is for the kiddies.
Casey and particularly Watkins were excellent bad guys. Ms. Lias seemed over the top in her various roles, but she is a veteran children’s theater actor and her performance wasn’t aimed at me. The music was good but the lighting was kind of dim. The AC was fully cranked on the afternoon we attended, so bring your woollies.
Huck Finn’s Story is performed Saturdays, 3:30 pm and 7 pm at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, MD. The show closes April 15, 2006.
Tickets: $10 – $15. Box office: 301-280-1660 or order online at