Goodnight Moon at Adventure Theatre-MTC

I’ve never seen a theater set that’s as integral to a performance as the one in Adventure Theatre MTC’s current production of Goodnight Moon. Objects on the stage appear to move on their own, adding a delightful surprise element to this staging of Margaret Wise Brown’s classic book.

My four-year-old son has actually grown tired of repeated readings of Goodnight Moon but was nonetheless thrilled to be going to see the live show. He was enthralled for the whole performance, which manages to stretch a five-minute board book into a 55-minute show by imagining that the book’s bunny is like many kids at bedtime: resistant and energetic.

In addition to the bunny, the other roles in the show are the old lady whispering hush, the mouse, and several other animals. Characters not seen in the book but added here include a male tooth fairy and a star princess.

While the patient old lady tries again and again to get the bunny to sleep, he continues to bounce back out of bed and interact with the objects in his room when she leaves. Short musical numbers are peppered throughout the show, some fast and upbeat, some more like lullabies. Humorous moments are mostly provided by the bunny, such as when he asks the old lady for water and then rolls around while pretending to gag because he’s oh-so thirsty. A song with the words from the book Runaway Bunny also got lots of giggles when “You’ll never get away, get away, get away” was sung quickly and repeatedly.

It seemed that in each scene, a different part of the set got its moment in the spotlight. A balloon attached to a horizontal string lights up and then seems to dance as someone backstage (I presume) tugs the string. A dollhouse is turned around to reveal a mini factory with blocks and jewels on conveyor belts that actually move (the tooth fairy factory turns children’s teeth into stars). While some of the objects that take on living qualities don’t seem to surprise the bunny, there are things that do: his lamp turns on and off by itself and also leans away from him; his phone moves by itself; his blanket slides to the end of his bed; and his pillow seems to attack him (but in a funny way). Many of the moving props left me wondering how the trickery was accomplished, and I appreciated that it wasn’t so easy to figure out.

I also noticed the variety of the sizes of the stage props. A picture of a cow jumping over a moon reminded me of penny theater (mini puppets), while a copy of the book Runaway Bunny is as tall as the actors.

The bunny role is filled by two teen actors (some shows feature one actor while others feature the other one). Since Adventure Theatre merged with the Musical Theater Center in 2012, they have included more young actors in their shows — something that has been a huge plus in my eyes. I saw an Adventure Theatre show of Goodnight Moon back in 2008 that was quite different from the current version (most notably the set, but also an all-adult cast, and a slightly different script and music).

The theater recommends Goodnight Moon for all ages, and I agree. There is nothing scary or complicated in the show. The audience at the performance we attended included some toddlers but was mostly preschoolers. I can’t imagine that anyone in the audience had never heard the Goodnight Moon book, but the story would be simple to follow without memorization of the sweet words. I was amused at the child sitting behind us who kept screaming out “hush” throughout the show — clearly his favorite word from the book.

We thoroughly enjoyed the show and especially the set. I had given away our copy of Goodnight Moon since my son hadn’t wanted it read to him anymore, but he begged for a stop at the library to check it out. After reading the book though, he was slightly disappointed and wondered where the fun story told in the show was.

The bunny’s antics really hit home with the footie-pajama set (while hopefully not giving them any new stalling tactics to test out at home). There also may be a takeaway here for parents: The patience of the calm old lady is something I know I’m striving to replicate at bedtime.

More Info

  • Goodnight Moon runs through November 3, 2013. Tickets are $19 and can be purchased at www.adventuretheatre-mtc.org or 301.634.2270. Children under the age of 1 are free.  ATMTC also added many 7pm performance times for the remainder of its run.
  • Adventure Theatre MTC is in Glen Echo Park, which includes many other attractions. The carousel is closed for the season, but Living Classrooms nature center is open on weekends, a playground is right near the theater, and art galleries and artist studios are open for browsing.
  • There is a cafe within the park that serves sandwiches, salads, and treats. Check the website for hours.
  • There is a sensory/autism friendly performance on Oct. 19 at 2PM, and an American Sign Language performance on Oct. 5 at 2PM.
  • Adventure Theatre MTC is hosting a Diaper Drive to benefit the DC Diaper Bank. Although all new, clean, disposable diapers are accepted, this diaper drive is specifically for older kids diapers including GoodNites, Sleepovers, and Pull-Ups. Open packages are accepted as well as formula (new, not expired), baby food, diaper cream and wipes.
  • After the show, the box office has a few items related to Goodnight Moon for sale. And the actors are in the lobby for taking a photo or asking questions.

Photo Credits

  • Photo One: Anissa Hartline, Colin Cech and Maya Brettell in Goodnight Moon at Adventure Theatre-MTC.  Photo by Bruce Douglas.
  • Photo Two: Dorea Schmidt, Maya Brettell, Colin Cech and Sam Edgerly in Goodnight Moon at Adventure Theatre-MTC.  Photo by Bruce Douglas.
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