Fringe 2011: The Malachite Palace

Wit's End Puppets production of The Malachite Palace at the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival.

I’m reviewing seven plays over the course of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, in collaboration with DC Theatre Scene. Get your Fringe button and join me!

Though there’s definitely an element of raunchy radicalism about Fringe, it’s important to remember that there are performances suitable for all. If you have a small child in your life, a sweet outing for you and them would be Wit’s End Puppets presentation of The Malachite Palace.

Combining both shadow puppetry and marionettes, this adaptation of the children’s picture book Alma Flor Ada is also bilingual, with dialogue repeated in both Spanish and English in a flow that’s natural and unforced. Four puppeteers and one actor voicing all the roles take you through a simple plot easily understood by children – a princess’s quest to discover if she can make a caged bird sing, while she herself longs to be free of the confines of her palace so she can play with the happy-go-lucky kids below.

The Malachite Palace is performed by young puppeteers who I’m sure will continue to grow into fine artists – there were some wobbles and pacing gaps but nothing egregious, and the overall effect is charming. The shadow puppets especially are quite beautiful in their design. But children’s theater should really be judged by the reaction of children in the audience – frankly, whether or not I think it’s well-executed is pretty immaterial against whether they are enchanted by what they see.

The one little boy in the opening night audience was certainly enchanted. He was clearly interested in the marionettes depicting children his age playing patty-cake and leap frog (they were almost as tall as him!). Whenever a yellow bird magically flew across the space his whole body perked up. And he paid careful attention to the princess’s pleas. It was a joy to watch.

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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