I just have to say the word “pirate” to get my kids’ attentions. Adventure Theatre goes one better and launches its 66th season with the musical How I Became a Pirate.
Yes, it’s all about pirates. How to talk and swordfight like a pirate. How to dress like a pirate. And most of all how to behave like a pirate.
When the play begins, the beachy set evokes a classic summer day, with its striped beach umbrellas and vintage boardwalk music. Jeremy Jacob is a little boy playing with his sand castle when he spies a pirate ship anchoring offshore. He alerts his parents, who basically reply, “That’s nice, son.”
The crew of six buccaneers arrive on the scene with more merriment than menace – thankfully not upsetting any little kids in the audience, including my character-phobic five-year-old daughter, who shrinks from anyone in costume.
The ship had taken a wrong turn at Bora Bora, according to Swill the Pirate, who is consulting Google Maps on his smartphone. The privateers need a digger who can bury their treasure chest. Jeremy Jacob, with his plastic shovel, volunteers. The pirate ship itself looks like your ultimate dream playset (kudos to the set designer). I swear I could see the wheels turning in my five-year-old’s head as her eyes lit up and she plotted how to convince her dad to build her something similar in the backyard.
The songs – and jokes – come fast and furious as the crew educate Jeremy Jacob on the ins and outs of being a pirate. You can talk with your mouth full. You never have to say “please” or “thank you.” You never brush your teeth.
- “Pirates don’t do anything we don’t want to,” says one.
- “Except swabbing the deck,” reminds another.
- “And cleaning out the bilge,” says another. It turns out that, after all, pirates have a lot of things they need to do as well.
For his part, Jeremy Jacob teaches the pirates about the joys of soccer – a game that can’t be played without very specific rules. The buccaneers have to admit that rules can be a good thing sometimes.
The talented actors keep the mood light and fast-paced, firing off jokes about the poop deck, booty, Wii gaming consoles, and Gilligan’s Island. (I suspect the bigger kids and the adults in the audience may have appreciated a lot of the jokes more than the little kids.) One-eyed Sharktooth sings a hilarious song about being “just a sensitive dude.” And the shenanigans build to such an uproarious pitch that Swill pauses and asks the audience: “Too much?”
Despite all the fun he is having, Jeremy Jacob does reach peak pirate. Even the most swashbuckling crew can’t make up for the comforts and routines of home; and Jeremy misses reading books with his parents and his bedtime kiss. Like all adventures, this one comes to an end with a mixture of relief and regret. The crew promise Jeremy Jacob that they’ll return one day – and I can’t help wishing as well that those zany pirates show up in a sequel.
- How I Became a Pirate runs through October 22. Tickets are $19.50 each. If you order tickets over the phone at 301-634-2270 and talk like a pirate, you get 10% off your tickets. The show is recommended for all ages.
- American Sign Language Interpreted Performance is Sept 30 at 2 p.m. Sensory/Autism Friendly Performance is October 14 at 2 p.m.
- Parking is free and available on site at Glen Echo Park. It is about a 7-minute walk from the parking lot to the theater.
Photos courtesy of Michael Horan.