The Puppet Co’s rendition of this familiar tale brings new life and zest to the familiar passages by bringing a modern edge and sensibility to the story.
Jack’s character grows definitively in this fun retelling of the old tale, starting off as a bit of a slaggard who yearns for riches without hard work or even doing chores unless badgered. He starts to get glimmers of responsibility when searching for his beloved cow, Penelope, who has grown too old to give milk and is destined to “meat” her fate at the butchers.
Along the way, Jack has a fun encounter with a strange man who barters for the cow and Jack ends up with a satchel of beans, which seems like a swindle until the huge stalk appears overnight. Jack’s quest makes him stronger and bolder to the point of making three trips up the bean stalk.
Watching the company’s growing technical prowess in using images and video to help tell the story has been a joy. The projections anchor the setting, depict rolling meadows, Jack’s infamous climb up the stalk, help with transitions, and show what’s going on, in this case, even showing the puppets in dark shadow formation behind the screen.
With Christopher Piper on the script, you know there’ll be ample gag humor, and the cow swishing her ample bottom when exiting the scene fits the bill. There are even hints of slapstick when the classically dressed Mom slips into the well behind the scene and re-enters with the pail on her head, something reminiscent of Lucy Ricardo.
Jack’s quest brings him to a large castle, again, nicely projected, and once inside, he meets a shy beautfful damsel in distress, a poor mute servant girl toiling away for the mean giant. Piper’s script includes some unfortunate and insensitive gags about her inability to speak, but the puppeteer moves her so gently that her lovely spirit really comes through.
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK
Closes April 21, 2013
The Puppet Co.
7300 MacArthur Blvd.
Glen Echo Park, Glen Echo, MD
50 minutes without intermission
Thursdays thru Sundays
Details and Tickets
Jack becomes more well meaning as the story progresses, and cares for the damsel each time he returns, especially in one touching scene when he sees how she has suffered for helping him “liberate” items for his own well being. The lessons and messages about being kind and considerate to others recur in gentle refrains effectively throughout the script.
In addition to designing the set, and the puppets, and directing, Allan Stevens’ costumes (constructed and realized by MayField Piper) bring an elegant flair to the scenes with flowing garments for the ladies and fitted jacket for Jack, even down to the detail of his felt-cornered hat that his Mum urges him to put on to keep warm while climbing the beanstalk.
The handiwork of the entire production team is evident in this well-crafted retelling of a timeless story, which still leaves a giant impression about the importance of accepting responsibility and caring for others.
Recommended thru Grade 6.
Jack and Beanstalk . Adapted by Christopher Piper . Directed by Allan Stevens . Puppets, set, costumes by Allan Stevens . Produced by the Puppet Co . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson .