There’s not a lot of things that I can take all three of my kids (7, 4, and 1) – that we will all genuinely like on our own terms, but Aquarium was one of them. Now showing at Imagination Stage as part of their early-childhood play series, Aquarium is advertised as best for ages 1 to 5 but my oldest enjoyed it a lot and didn’t feel like it was a “baby show.” As a big theater geek, I appreciated its poetic language and its magical theatrical images.
Jack then calls on a volunteer from the audience to be his assistant and he renames her Calypso. She is actually part of the production, which older kids such as my seven-year-old will figure out pretty quickly.
Then the audience starts to get involved with the play: an adult volunteer gets called to the stage and becomes the gardener who helps hand out “seaweed” (actually green gloves on a stick), which later transforms into daisies. Every kid gets a lemon, which they then get to bring onto the stage to help make a sun. Later, pillows become fish and blue cloth morphs into the sea.
There are a lot of cool interactive things like this, where little kids get to take part in surprising stagecraft, and I don’t want to give everything away, but I’ll just say that they get a chance to be in a sheep parade, rake a patch of grass, and create the sound of rain.
Soothing music helps calm things down for quieter parts of the play. The actors seem easygoing too: When a little girl rushed up to Jack early on in the show, he invited her to sit next to him, which she did for a bit, before her mother came up and took her back to her seat.
The storyline too has that meandering playful trajectory that little kids have when they’re spinning a tale: they’re going to the aquarium but on the way there they meet a gardener and a shepherd, then it starts to rain and they catch some fish, then they do some yoga – It all adds up to a great first theater experience and, at about 40 minutes, Aquarium is just the right length for short attention spans. Every time I see one of Imagination Stage’s early-childhood plays, I’m reminded how lucky we are to live in the D.C. area, which offers some of the best – if not the best – children’s theater in the country.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Aquarium runs through January 26, 2014.
- Shows are at 10:30 and 11:45 a.m. Tuesdays to Fridays, and 10 and 11:15 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Each performance runs approximately 45 minutes.
- Appropriate for ages 1 to 5.
- Tickets are $10 to $12, with a $5 lap seat for children under 12 months.
- Tickets may be purchased online at www.imaginationstage.org, at the Imagination Stage box office, or via phone at 301-280-1660.
- Next door to the theater, there’s public parking in a covered garage, which is free on weekends.
- Following the performances at Imagination Stage, Aquarium will tour to the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, DC, from January 28 to February 2, 2014.
- Upcoming early-childhood plays at Imagination Stage are Inside Out (March 1-April 6) and Mouse on the Move (June 28-Aug. 10).
Photo: Adi Stein as Jack and Maggie Erwin as Calypso. Photo Credit: Erin Gifford/Imagination Stage.