Now showing at Olympia Family Theater (OFT), Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are in a Play!” is a small play that packs a big wallop for kids. I was not familiar with Mo Willems’ series of Elephant & Piggy children’s books before reading about them in the program. The stories about Piggie and elephant Gerald are written with simple illustrations and sparse text in cartoon speech bubbles. “These are easy reads,” says a program note, “with few difficult vocabulary words for even the youngest readers. There are only a few words on each page. They are funny. Most books have a clever twist at the end.”
What the program notes don’t say is this: If this play is a representative example, the Elephant & Piggie books offer valuable life lessons for children in a most delightful way.
This play, written by the books’ author with music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, combines stories from a number of the books in the series. It appears each song tells the tale of one book in the series.
The set is a minimal but lovely backdrop, nicely painted by OFT’s resident lighting and scenic designer, Jill Carter. (Oddly, though there are hinged panels, they do not move.) Sets and costumes are likewise kept to a minimum. The main characters are in, not pig and elephant costumes, but a dandy suit and tie for Gerald the elephant and shorts and, in most scenes, an overskirt or tutu for Piggie. This was a wise decision, as if they’d been given a trunk and a pig snout, it would’ve detracted from their marvelous facial expressions.
Music is provided by a five-piece band.
In her OFT debut, Joanna Gibson plays Piggie. Gibson is an acrobat and circus aerialist who teaches at Olympia Community School. She’s a bundle of energy, running and jumping and dancing all over the place with a smile that lights up the world. Her exuberant acting reminds me of another OFT favorite, Kate Ayers, who happens to be the director of this play.
Isaac McKenzsiesullivan plays Gerald. This is only his second appearance on the OFT stage. He first performed at OFT as Charlie Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas. He plays Gerald as less excitable than Piggie, somewhat shy and very sweet.
In addition to its two main characters, the play has a small ensemble cast of three backup singers, the Squirrelles—Rynelle Bircher, Corissa DeVerse and Nicole Galyean—plus Christine Goode as both Penguin and Dog.
I’m tempted to give away the surprise twist at the end, but I shall resist the temptation. The children in the audience clearly loved it and so did I.
(This review appears courtesy of The Weekly Volcano.)
What: Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are in a Play!”
Where: Olympia Family Theater,
612 Fourth Ave E, Olympia
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21;
2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 22 and 23
How much: $13-$19
Learn more: 360-570-1638 | OlyFT.org