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'Elephant & Piggie's' "We Are in a Play"

Small play - big wallop of kids

Joanna Gibson as Piggie and Isaac McKenzsieSullivan as Gerald. Photo credit: Alexis Sarah

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Olympia Family Theater's 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 children's books, Elephant & Piggy, before reading about them in the program. The stories about Gerald, the elephant and Piggie are written with simple illustrations and sparse text all presented in cartoon speech bubbles. "These are easy reads, 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 that everyone gets a kick out of," reads a program note.

What the program notes don't say is that, 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. If I am interpreting correctly, each song tells the tale of one of the books in the series.

The set is minimal but lovely to look at, consisting of a backdrop nicely painted by OFT's resident lighting and scenic designer, Jill Carter. (Oddly, there are hinged panels, but they do not move.) Sets and costumes are kept to a minimum. The main characters are not in pig and elephant costumes, but rather a dandy suit and tie for Gerald the elephant and shorts and in most scenes an over-skirt or tutu for Piggie the piglet. This was a wise decision, because if they had been given a trunk and a pig snout it would have detracted from their marvelous facial expressions.

Music is provided by a five-piece band.

Joanna Gibson plays Piggie in her OFT debut. Gibson is an acrobat and circus aerialist who teaches at Olympia Community School. She is 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 a lot 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. Not quite as excitable as Piggie, he plays Gerald as somewhat shy and very sweet.

In addition to the two main characters the play has only a small ensemble cast consisting of a trio of backup singers, the Squirrelle's - Rynelle Bircher, Corissa DeVerse, and Nicole Galyean - and Christine Goode, who plays Penguin and Dog.

I am tempted to give away the surprise twist at the end, but I shall resist the temptation. The children in the audience the night I attended clearly loved it, and so did I.

Elephant & Piggie's "We Are in a Play," Fri., 7 p.m., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m., through Oct. 23, $13-$19, Olympia Family Theater, 612 4th Ave. E, Olympia, 360.570.1638,

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