On Saturday I took my eldest to see Charlotte’s Web at Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo Park. To say that it was a delightful treat would be an understatement. First, the chance to go see the play prompted us to pick up the book and start reading it together. I last read Charlotte’s Web as a kid and this is the first real chapter book (read: not Junie B Jones) that I’ve read with my daughter. Reading this book together, in anticipation of our date to the theatre, has been wonderful. Because she is only 5.5, I’m not sure I would have thought to start reading this book to her just yet but I am grateful that I did. I’d forgotten how sweet and sad the story is and how E. B. White weaves important lessons on the cycle of life, unlikely friendships and death effortlessly through her sweet tale of Wilbur and Charlotte.
Upon entering the theatre, we were both giddy over the beautiful barnyard set displayed on stage. We couldn’t wait to meet Charlotte, Wilbur, Fern, the barnyard animals and even Templeton, that evil and sneaky rat. I counted six actors in the play, each taking on at least 2 roles throughout the production, and my daughter and her friends had no idea that Fern also played the mother goose, for example. The actors brilliantly portrayed each character, either through movement like the animals or conveying the emotional sensitivity of Fern or the brusque but gentle manner of Uncle Homer. We all laughed out loud over the goose and gosling’s repetition of words, Wilbur’s innocent and physical playfulness and even Templeton’s insatiable hunger and greed.
I read that Deidra LaWan Starnes, who plays Charlotte, helped prepare for the role by reading parts aloud to her own two children and I thought she beautifully conveyed the wisdom of Charlotte, her loyalty to Wilbur and the smooth rhythmic movement of an actual spider. I also thought each of the actor’s costumes were very creative and original despite the fact that none of them were wearing animal masks, fake ears or really anything beyond regular clothing. The use of the rain boots for the goose and gander and the old sheep’s Scottish plaid hat along with his white wool sweater were convincing enough for all of us, especially the kids, to get lost in the tale of Charlotte’s Web. I also read that the actors made a visit to a farm in Oxon Hill, MD to help prepare for their roles by observing the animals and how they interacted with each other. Clearly no detail is left unturned when it comes to an Adventure Theatre production, between the actor prep, the wooded and comfortable barnyard stage, the creative displays of Charlotte’s sewn words each displayed in different textures, and the costumes.
We’ve seen so many plays at Adventure Theatre and one of the things I always appreciate is how they get the length of the production exactly right. This play succinctly weaves together the story in about an hour, before the kids, even the younger ones, get too fidgety and before they start asking for lunch or snacks – which in and of itself is no small feat (at least for my snack-obsessed kids).
The play runs through September 5 and it would be a shame to miss it. Wilbur is some pig and this is some play! Tickets are $17 each and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 301-634-2270. It’s a great way to beat the heat for an hour and get lost in a wonderful and sweet tale. Up next at Adventure Theatre: Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse from September 23-October 31 and the Christmas-classic and favorite ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas from November 18-January 2, 2012.
Disclosure: I received tickets from Adventure Theatre to attend the show. The comments expressed here are all my own.