Review of The Little Prince
October 18, 2010
by Beth Meyer
At the Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint
916 G Street, NW
The Little Prince, now playing at the Mead Theatre Lab through November 7, 2010
The Little Prince at the Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint through November 7, 2010 isn’t your typical children’s show. It is philosophical and melancholy with good acting, artistic aspirations and an international crew. It’s staged in an intimate 40-seat theater adjoining an art gallery. The show is produced by the Ambassador Theater, under the patronage of the Embassy of France.
The Little Prince is very faithful to the novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, one of the most popular and frequently translated books in the world. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the adaptation. In preparation for the experience, I read the book aloud to my six and ten year-old daughters. We thoroughly enjoyed the first two pages, where a drawing of a boa constrictor eating an elephant is mistaken for a hat by foolish adults, but we couldn’t get much further. On the subway to the show, my older daughter pronounced the book “incredibly boring.” I felt somewhat vindicated when I found out from the program that upon first reading the book, the director of the play also found it “incredibly boring.” Somehow, the director managed to convey the charm, humor, and spirit of the story without its redundancy.
In the first act, a pilot (Alex Vernon), who has crashed his plane at the Sahara Desert, meets the Little Prince (Ian Pedersen), an otherworldly little boy, who tells him about his own journeys. The Little Prince first describes his own tiny asteroid and his romance with a rose (charmingly told with the help of shadow puppets). Then, he tells of his adventures meeting the rulers of six other asteroids. My daughters’ favorite was the first one, a king, who foolishly orders everyone about. They found him hilarious. The other rulers, like the businessman and the geographer also represent aspects of adult stupidity and blindness. The second act focuses on the Little Prince’s experiences on earth especially his taming of a fox (Sarah Olmsted Thomas). When the fox described how humans hunted her, a little boy in the audience shouted out “this is pure comedy.” The fox tells the Little Prince the moral of his story. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. The essential is invisible to the eyes.”
As a warning, the ending is very sad and involves the death of a major character. My six year-old did not really understand the ending; my ten year-old did. The ending was handled similarly in Don’t Eat the Pictures, if you’re familiar with that Sesame Street DVD.
The play is very well acted. Accomplished eleven year-old actor Ian Pederson had previously played the son of Phedre with Helen Mirren as Phedre at the National Theatre of London. Alex Vernon did a fine job as the pilot and Sarah Olmsted Thomas and Ilana Naidamast were convincing as the fox and snake respectively.
The very effective set was just made up of draped white fabric. The costumes were clever, the masks and shadow puppets by Bulgarian artists were terrific, and the original music by Georg Silver from the Canary Islands was beautiful and evocative.
My daughters and I liked the show very much. Younger children in the audience enjoyed the show as well and there was no squirming or chatter. I spoke with the director afterwards and she thinks it is appropriate for ages 8 and up and is really an adult play.