Summer Kids Theatre: The Big Friendly Giant Review

“Mommy, I am going to read The BFG next,” casually remarked my 8-year-old at the conclusion of Imagination Stage’s current stage production of Roald Dahl’s The BFG.

Could there be a better, more concise, or positive review of a play than those words? Especially coming from my not-overly-inclined-to-read-on-a-whim kid. It was music to my ears. One week later, she has officially cracked the book, further proving just how much she enjoyed the play.

The BFG (James Konicek) and Sophie (Megan Graves) celebrate friendship and bravery in THE BFG at Imagination Stage through August 10. Photo Credit: Imagination Stage

The BFG (James Konicek) and Sophie (Megan Graves) celebrate friendship and bravery in THE BFG at Imagination Stage through August 10. Photo Credit: Imagination Stage

We recently took a much-needed break from the sun and pool to head indoors for Imagination Stage’s new production, Roald Dahl’s The BFG (Big Friendly Giant). Full disclosure: We are avid Matilda fans here, including a whirlwind 24-hour trip to NYC over spring break to see it on Broadway, but we weren’t overly familiar with the BFG plot.

In fact, I don’t even think I read The BFG as a kid.

I know, I know. A disgrace.

#Don’tTellMyDaughter

For anyone else who might not know, the BFG  includes all the essential elements for kid theater-going success: farting jokes, enormous giants, a good-fighting-evil arc, a brave little girl and some explanation of where our dreams come from. In our house, my youngest shares a name with the show’s main character, Sophie, so we had that added perk. Also chez moi,  zapping bad dreams from heads before bed-time is a nightly ritual, so any chance to learn how these dreams get in our heads is a win-win for my girls.

The play opens with little Sophie’s cold and unloving orphan existence. While she’s looking out the window one sleepless night, she happens to spot a huge giant. According to Dahl, the master of exploring kid fears and imaginations, mean giants roam the globe when humans are sleeping, and do horrible things like eat children.

#NomNom

Honestly, some might consider the Dahl stories too dark and morbid but I love them. Just as the children

The mean giants of Giant Country plot their next move during The Witching Hour in THE BFG at Imagination Stage. Photo Credit: Imagination Stage

The mean giants of Giant Country plot their next move during The Witching Hour in THE BFG at Imagination Stage. Photo Credit: Imagination Stage

are revolting in Matilda but they rise above their adult oppressors and prevail, the same proves true in The BFG. In this case, Sophie happens to spot the one giant who doesn’t eat children, so while he snatches her from her own bedroom (hello possible nightmares and kidnapping fears), he is nice and caring and hides her from the mean children-eating giants in his giant-land.

At this point, you might be wondering the right age group for the play? My 5-year-old came along and she never once was scared or upset by the plot. The only challenge we faced with her was the length of the play, especially because it includes a short intermission. Anyone who follows my theater reviews knows I loathe intermission for kid plays.  I confess, I was disappointed they brought back the intermission for this play because Imagination Stage had eliminated it from the past few consecutive plays. Bottom line, Mr. WM and me both agreed that early Elementary through 6th grade is the ideal target for this one, my rising Kindergartener was questionable but it wasn’t inappropriate or outrageous to bring her along. She just understand it or appreciate it like her older sister did and it got to be a little long for her.

The Queen of England (Susan Lynskey) honors the BFG (James Konicek) for his courage in THE BFG at Imagination Stage. Photo Credit: Imagination Stage

The Queen of England (Susan Lynskey) honors the BFG (James Konicek) for his courage in THE BFG at Imagination Stage. Photo Credit: Imagination Stage

In the end, Sophie and the BFG plan to save the world’s children from the mean giants by concocting a clever plan to get inside the Queen of England’s head. Along the way, Dahl successfully mixes farting jokes with the ever-proper Queen while good wins over evil.

If the kids in your house are Dahl-lovers, I’d highly recommend this summer play. It’s a great chance to escape the heat and explore your little one’s imagination. From my perspective, there is no greater marker of a wonderful theater experience than a child actively seeking out the book after the show.

Catch The BFG now through August 10th. Tickets are on sale for $10 and can be purchased online.

Disclosure: Me and my family were guests of Imagination Stage but my opinions here are all my own.

A Father’s Guide to Mother’s Day

Today’s post is a win-win for everyone: Moms & Dads. Declaring myself the official spokeswoman for mothers the world over, Dads, I offer you this much-needed insight and guide for Mother’s Day.

What is Mother’s Day? Is it a day of epic failures and unrealistic expectations? Is it a day of miserable crowded brunches? Is it a day of breakfast in bed and afternoon spa time? Is it a day of unfulfilled dreams and hopes? It could be all or most of those things, depending on who you ask. So let’s cut to the chase.

Funny as it is, we don’t want this, really ever:

We probably wouldn't turn down a date with JT, however

We probably wouldn’t turn down a date with JT, however

Turning to TV icons and brilliant ideas, however, I can pretty much say we all loved this guy and what he had to say – especially the “Here are two tickets to that thing you love…and now those tickets are diamonds”

Let's bring this guy back, shall we, Old Spice?

Let’s bring this guy back, shall we, Old Spice?

So, while I’d discourage you from showing up on a horse on Mother’s Day, I would encourage you to take my guide to heart. It is a low-cost, win-win way to approach Mother’s Day. Best part – it’s a weekend filled with ideas. My advice – get started on this immediately:

  1. Initiative. This is what she wants for Mother’s Day. Are there dirty clothes in the laundry basket? Then go wash them. Then fold them and then put them away. Quietly. Don’t ask questions. Don’t ask for recognition. Oh, and don’t forget to treat the stains on the kid’s clothes. Are there any other unfinished projects around the home? Now is the time to do them, this includes light bulbs that might need to be changed, any batteries swapped out, any kid toys that need repair, outstanding yard work, piles of kid crap on the kitchen counter that needs to be sorted and put somewhere. The same goes for your work shoes on the floor.
  2. Planning. While you are eating breakfast, ask yourself what is for dinner. Wonder this alone in your head. Do you not know? Neither does she but someone has to figure it out and guarantee she’s already started thinking about it. So be the decision maker and take something out of the freezer and commit. How about lunches for the week ahead for the kids. Need to stock up on grocery items for them? Grab the kids and head to the grocery store and stock up, brother. Don’t ask for a list. Take inventory before you go. Are there any upcoming kid birthday parties? Does someone need to purchase a gift for those parties? Maybe knock that one out while you are out getting the groceries…with the kids.
  3. Intervention. Are the children fighting? Does someone need to step in before it escalates? Be bold! Go forth and do that. All weekend long.
  4. Foresight. Are you all heading out the door to go somewhere? Like maybe brunch or dinner with your mom or her mom? What time do you need to leave? Work backwards from that time to assess when you need to start corralling the children: getting them on the potty, getting their shoes on, are you bringing a gift or a bottle of wine, do you need to bring coloring books or crayons or anything to keep the kids occupied in the restaurant? Snacks for the car ride? You’ve got this covered. Quietly. These things are just getting done while she is getting ready for said departure.

Guess what? Now you really are this guy:

Wasn't that easy?

Wasn’t that easy?

It goes without saying that flowers, a card, home-made cards from the children and really any other gift recognizing her is pretty much welcome, as well. But in the meantime, you’ve got this amazing low-cost guide that will guarantee you measurable results: a very happy wife.  What did I forget, Moms? Speak up…and be sure to “Like” and weigh in on the WM Facebook page.

 

 

Is Mother’s Day a Farce?

There are 365 days in the year. When you are a young kid, they all blur together. The seasons change. Whether you wear boots and a hat or flip-flops and a swimsuit changes. But the day or the month or the year is largely immaterial. It’s lovely.

Then as you get older, you assign meaning to days and months. Anniversaries matter. Days of mourning matter. Rites of passage – marriage, birth of a child, getting engaged, graduating from college. These all matter. They have hype. They have build up. You anticipate them. You imagine what they will be like, what you will wear, if the day will meet your expectations.

Then there is Mother’s Day. The MOTHER of all hyped up days.

I ask you this:  If you had to decide which day ultimately #fails more – could you decide between Mother’s Day or Daylight Savings, when you don’t get an extra hour of sleep, instead your day begins at 5am instead of 6am?

They’re kind of neck’n’neck for moi. At least one of those days you are supposed to get a card or two – so if you don’t even get a card – then you’re probably even more pissed off than you are on Daylight Savings when the day feels 100 years long because it starts so damn early.

Though we try to ignore it and pretend it isn’t so – Mother’s day is any given Sunday for young kids. They don’t care that you have earned a moment. That of all the days of the year this is supposed to be your day. Along with millions of other women across the country, of course.  Why should they care? Just like they don’t sleep in on weekends. Or on daylight savings Sunday. A few years ago, my eldest asked me this, on Mother’s Day:

“Mommy, what day is dedicated to just kids?”

Umm….EVERY damn day, kiddo.

So instead  on Mother’s Day, you have this glaring reminder in your face, filled with cards and miserable crying over-crowded brunches, that this is the day your children are SUPPOSED to cherish you.

But each time they act out, you ask yourself WHY – WHY can’t they just give you this ONE DAY - is it really so much to ask? And what have you done wrong as a parent that they can’t respect you enough to give you peace and quiet on ONE DAY?

And your husband falls into one of two camps- he indulges you with a gift or flowers because you are the mother of his children OR he points out that you are not, in fact, his mother, and it’s the kid’s job to give you something (that don’t fly chez WM, FYI).

Either way – you’ve got something nagging at you that reminds you that somehow, somewhere along the way, this day just doesn’t seem to be about YOU and you angrily wash a dish or make some lunch wondering who the hell is enjoying Mother’s Day.

Is Mother’s Day a farce? Would we all be better off without it? Just as I firmly believe we’d all be better off without the torture that is daylight savings?

Me & my mom - at Disney World last year over Mother's Day weekend - with the most appropriate character of all from the Incredibles.

Me & my mom – at Disney World last year over Mother’s Day weekend – with the most appropriate character of all from the Incredibles.

Setting aside the sarcasm and snark, I think it’s important to acknowledge what is awesome about us Moms. Frank Bruni, in an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times two years ago, tied it up neatly with a bow in his oped “Muddling Through Mother’s Day” when he wrote about his own mother:

“I was – I am – one of the four luckiest children I know, my siblings being the other three. We had a mother who held us in esteem and held us to account; told us we were magnificent and told us we were miserable; exhorted us to please her but found ways to forgive when, all too frequently, we didn’t; and made certain that we knew she was there for us until, unimaginably, she wasn’t.”

In two sentences he said everything I hope my children will think of me when they are adults. So on future Mother’s Day, in say 2050, when my children are adults, I hope it is a day that gives them pause to think not so much about themselves, if they are mothers, but about what kind of mother I was to them. Because my own mom successfully did for me and my three sisters exactly what Frank Bruni’s mom did for him.

Until that point, I just head to the hotel bar at the Ritz or the 4 Seasons, where you should join moi, we can order some champagne and talk about how freaking awesome we are as mothers.  And maybe even draft up some model legislation banning Daylight Savings Time in honor of Mothers everywhere.

Until next year….Photo Credit: Someecards

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DC Spring Theater: Don’t miss The Jungle Book

Kaa the beloved snake. Photo Credit: Mike Horan

Kaa the beloved snake. Photo Credit: Mike Horan

Just when I was beginning to think my oldest was starting to become “too old” for Adventure Theatre MTC, they knocked it out of the park, and proved me wrong with their current production “The Jungle Book.”

While the play is based on the book by Rudyard Kipling, I’m willing to guess many families are most familiar with the story thanks to the classic Disney movie. Bottom line, with this version of the story so commonly associated with The Jungle book, tackling this story is no small feat and Adventure Theatre succeeded. All the way to the production, I was thinking about the playful, whimsical Disney movie but in reality, Adventure Theatre MTC transformed Kipling’s tale into a serious, creative and compelling drama for older elementary-aged kids. Don’t get me wrong, my five-year-old was also taken with the show, but it was my 2nd grader and her friends, up to 4th grade, who were transfixed.

I watched the girls throughout the show because I know I’m writing the review but it’s really about the kids – and if the kids are reacting – or not reacting – that’s how I know what I’m going to write. Typically I find Adventure Theatre productions parallel the approach of a Pixar film; they are usually silly, whimsical and have jokes for adults and kids. Not this one. I hesitate to call “The Jungle Book” a drama but it almost really is a drama. It isn’t a silly, light tale.

The shirtless Mowgli and the silly monkeys. Photo Credit: Mike Horan

The shirtless Mowgli and the silly monkeys. Photo Credit: Mike Horan

Mowgli, the orphaned boy raised by wolves, has grown into an adolescent and his mentors, the friendly bear Baloo and the worrisome, anxious panther Bagheera, fret over how to help him survive the jungle and protect him from his greatest foe, Shere Khan, the Bengali tiger. Notably different from the movie, the wolf pack leader who rescued Mowgli and raised him, a female wolf, has a pivotal role in the play, demonstrating the strength and power of a female pack leader.

I kept waiting for the jokes and the pranks. And aside from the silly monkeys, they didn’t really come. The story follows the path to growing up, of forging your own path and learning from your mistakes, and facing your fears. It’s the Adventure Theatre all grown up. Seriously. My 5-year-old loved the costumes and the silly monkeys, she was taken with the snake and generally loved seeing all the animals but she did grow restless before the end of the 45-minute production.

But the older kids – they were absorbed into the story. Naturally they noted Mowgli wasn’t wearing a shirt (“Eww!”) because they’re little kids but that didn’t stop them from raving about the production once it was over. They talked about it all the way home from the show and the true test – were still talking about it the next day and the day after. Personally, I’d like to give props to the creative genius behind Shera Khan’s costume. If you plan to go, make a point to find the forks on the front of his costume. Who thought “hey, forks will complete the look of this menacing, evil, tiger?” Not just who thought that one up, but who successfully completed the costume with those forks? I was delighted when my eyes fell over that detail and several of my friends commented on the same thing after the show.

#TigerCostumesNeedForks

#MentalNoteforHalloween

If that isn’t a reason to load your elementary school aged kids into the car and head to Adventure Theatre for some spring time arts & theater, I don’t what is. We are lucky to live here and have such access to the creative arts catered to our young kids and personally, I’m grateful to such places as Adventure Theatre MTC.

You can see “The Jungle Book” through May 25th, tickets are $19 and can be purchased online.

Disclosure: The Adventure Theatre invited me and my family to see the show the night before it opened. My opinions here are all my own.