Oct 192010

We Love Arts: The Little Prince

Ian Pedersen as the Little Prince and Alex Vernon as the Aviator in Ambassador Theater’s “The Little Prince” photo: magda pinkowska

Ian Pedersen as the Little Prince and Alex Vernon as the Aviator in Ambassador Theater’s “The Little Prince” photo: magda pinkowska

There are many delights in Ambassador Theater’s production of The Little Prince, but chief among them for me was watching the reactions of the children in the audience. “Who I am writing a review for?” I asked myself afterward. It’s unlikely any of those enraptured five-year-olds would care what I think. Their parents? Perhaps. Funny then that this push-pull between the world of adults and children is at the heart of the much-loved book by Antoine Saint-Exupery (or Saint-Ex, as he’s affectionately known in my neighborhood).

From the small set beautifully draped in tunneling parachutes to the whimsical shadow puppets helping transport the audience to outer space, this is an evening of both sweetness and sadness that held the attention of the children I saw there. One even may have fallen in love with the little prince herself. For adults, the play is a reminder that, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. The essential is invisible to the eyes.”

If you’ve never read the book, written by French aviator Antoine Saint-Exupery after surviving an almost-fatal plane crash in the Sahara, or haven’t read it to your child, don’t worry. This adaptation by Rick Cummins and John Scoullar is quite faithful but easy to navigate. Children rarely figeted and their attention was held throughout. This is in no small part due to director and designer Lilia Slavova, who ably guides the ensemble of four actors through a hypnotic world.

It’s also a testament to young Ian Pedersen, who embues the Little Prince with a stoic yet hopeful melancholy that’s engaging to watch. Though he has to deliver many lines with a dreamy air directed outward to the audience, he manages to make the usually mystical prince a very real boy. His interactions with his beloved and vain Rose, the dangerous Snake (both wonderfully performed by Ilana D. Naidamast), and the spirited Fox (Sarah Olmstead Thomas) highlight the lessons children have to learn in order to grow. Note I don’t say grow up. That pitfall is embodied in the woeful Aviator (Alex Vernon), whose inability to see with a child’s eye anymore has almost broken his will.

The Aviator’s struggle to regain his youthful hope may mainly resonate with the adults in the audience. It’s the one difficulty in this production, and however talented an actor Vernon is (his masked turn as a self-centered king is truly hilarious) those strident moments seem to deflate the magic. But that’s a flaw easily overlooked.

My inner child’s favorite moment was the meeting of the Little Prince and the Fox. Having just heard that scene read at the wedding of a dear friend, I was reminded of how it struck me as a child – sad, wistful, full of the inevitability of love lost. However, Slavova wisely pumps up the gleefulness of this meeting with an adorably funny dance between the two, and Olstead Thomas’s Fox is so friskily frantic that taming brings a necessary and lovely maturity rather than a heartbreaking sadness.

Parents with children easily frightened should note that the Little Prince’s scenes with the Snake are mysterious rather than obvious (his disappearance from earth is in blackout) and I didn’t notice anything other than normal apprehension followed by delight when the masked figures began to appear.

Truly, this is a lovely evening at the theater for children and especially for parents looking to introduce them to an almost surreal, magical theatrical experience. And if you yourself, adult, are looking for an escape and a reminder of what is essential, then rest here for a while.

Ambassador Theater’s The Little Prince runs through November 7 at Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint at 916 G Street NW. Closest Metro: Gallery Place (Red/Green/Yellow lines).

Oct 192010

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October 17, 2010

Art makes the world go around…and we go around the world to review it!


Theater: “The Little Prince” (Ambassador), “King Arthur” (Synetic), “Cowardly Christopher Finds His Courage” (Synetic Family), “El caballero de Olmedo” (Gala),”Misalliance” (Olney), “Ovo” Cirque du Soleil, “Sink the Belgrano” (Scena), “Travels With My Aunt” (Rep Stage), “The Vibrator Play” (Woolly Mammoth), “Something You Did” (Theater J), “Dinner with Friends”

Musicals: “Bunnicula” (Imagination Stage), “Glimpses of the Moon” (Metro Stage), “Chess” (Signature), “Nunsense” (Toby’s), “Super Claudio Bros.” (Charlie Fink Productions), “Passing Strange” (Studio)

BestActing: Thomas Keegan “Women Beware Women” (Constellation), Full Cast “The Little Prince” (Ambassador),Full Cast “The Secret Marriage” (Opera) (Aurora Opera Theatre), Jiehae Park “Songs of the Dragons…” (Studio) Full cast (especially Monalisa Arias), “El caballero de Olmedo” (Gala), Drew Kopas “Misalliance” (Olney), Tia Shearere/Michael John Casey “Bunnicula” (Imagination), Karl Miller “The Talented Mr. Ripley (Round House), Lauren “Coco” Cohn, Gia Mora “Glimpses of the Moon” (Metro Stage), Full Cast especially Nana Ingvarsson, “Sink the Belgrano” (Scena),Full Cast “Travels With My Aunt” (Rep Stage), Full Cast “The Vibrator Play” (Woolly Mammoth), Full Cast, “Something You Did” (Theater J),Full Cast “Chess” (Signature), Julie-Ann Elliott, Paul Morella, Jeffries Thaiss, Peggy Yates “Dinner with Friends” (Olney)

Magic is created during the Ambassador Theater’s production of “THE LITTLE PRINCE” (To 11/7 ) that is described as “a fairy tale for adults or for the child that every grown up once was”. This lovely story based on the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s little book about a prince from a faraway star who confronts a pilot whose plane crashes in the desert is totally endearing. This is mostly due to the fine performances of the leads…Ian Petersen as the prince and Alex Vernon as the pilot. They are wonderfully assisted by actresses, Sarah Olmsted Thomas and Liana D. Naidamast in the fairy tales being messaged. Director Lilia Slavova got wonderfully sensitive interpretations during all parts of the story and it was wonderful to see the many youngsters in the audience getting a full measure of pleasure as the story unfolded. The set by Alex Vernon was like a downed parachute with spaces for heads to pop-up around the stage. There was an audio visual upstage for some delightful puppet work and cartoons. The music by Georg Silver was ethereal yet it emphasized the drama on stage. Kudos for the fine masks by Vanya Vasileva. This is wonderful family fare which allows the adults to reenter the fantasies of their childhood as their children repeat theirs. It is a highly recommended production. (Reviewed by Bob Anthony)