Developed by Len Piper (from the book by Carlo Collodi) as a puppet show within a puppet show, this marionettes-mixed-with-human-actors version of “Pinocchio” from Glen Echo’s Puppet Company is perfectly tailored to pre and elementary school-age kids.
In this classic story, Pinocchio is carved lovingly by his father, pursues his dream of becoming “a real boy,” but gets in trouble and is led astray by a variety of bad guys who take advantage of his innocence. Ultimately, Pinocchio rescues his father (and himself). Then, helped by a cricket and a fairy, he is finally granted his wish.
The marionettes (24 in total) are so real-looking, (Pinocchio has eyebrows that move and a nose that really grows) and interact so naturally with Allan Stevens (playing the father, the man who puts Pinocchio in a cage, and the Coachmaster) you forget they are puppets. Some of the expressive moments, including a crying ballerina and Pinocchio embracing his father, are quite touching. The set, too, (Eric Brooks, Allan Stevens) is a beautifully realistic Italian village, perfectly designed for humans to enter and exit stages left and right while marionettes are manipulated soundlessly from above by handlers completely hidden from the audience’s view. (The puppeteers for this show are Christopher Piper, MayField Piper, and Eric Brooks). Complementing the set is rear projection scenery, which provides added perspective through a range of backgrounds.
Perhaps the most artistic scene is when Pinocchio, searching for his father in the ocean, comes across a gorgeous seascape of creatures, including a sting ray, minnows, sea horses, battling swordfish and jelly fish. These “backlight puppets” come in stunning colors and their “glow” effect along with their expert manipulation are captivating.
With over twenty-five years of experience, The Puppet Company has a well-deserved reputation for entertaining kids. From “stickets” (instead of tickets) which you stick on your clothes, to the carpeted floor area for kids and cushiony side benches for adults, from the monitors outside the theater where restless toddlers can watch, to the ballerina marionette waiting at the exit to wave good-bye, this theater has the kid thing down. Pinocchio is well worth the fifty minutes and the price of admission.
Script adapted by Carlo Collodi
Book by Leonard Piper
Directed by Allan Stevens
Puppets created by Len Piper
Produced by the Puppet Company
Reviewed by Miriam Chernick