Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Little Prince
The 1943 book tells of an aviator (Craig Wallace) who crashes his plane in the Sahara Desert, and a tiny boy from another planet (Jamie Klassel) who becomes his friend and inspiration. However, the lessons of The Little Prince may be more effective on the page than on stage, where they tend toward the simplistic. Primarily, the message seems to be that children, with their wide-eyed sense of wonder and open-hearted joy, are morally and intellectually superior to adults, whose daily cares leave them without imagination and unable to comprehend the really important things.
The bulk of the story, and of the dramatization, is the Little Prince's recounting of his visits to other planets. Along the way, he meets a succession of negative adult role models (all played by Jen Plants), including a self-important king who is the only resident of his kingdom, a geographer too busy pontificating about knowledge to leave his study and explore the world, and a businessman who cares only for profit. Meanwhile, the pilot is spending his time trying to repair his airplane before he dies of thirst and exposure to the desert sun.
Other major characters include a magnificently beautiful but manipulative rose (Elaine Yuko Qualter), a fox (Wallace) who engages the Prince in philosophical conversations that compare the taming of a wild animal with the development of a friendship, and a snake (Qualter) who serves a purpose similar to the one in the Garden of Eden. All the performers clearly believe in what they're doing, but it's still slow going.
Round House, and director Eric Ting, are treating the work as a family-friendly allegory describing "what's really important in life." The problem is that it isn't especially engaging to watch; it's rather static, in fact. The pilot and the Prince mostly speak to the audience rather than to each other, and a little declaiming can go a long way.
The core of James Kronzer's set is the aviator's downed plane, partially suspended by ropes and apparently in a hangar rather than the desert. While it's true that the aviator is recounting his experiences rather than living them in real time, the specifics of the setting don't seem to fit. More in tune with the spirit of fantasy are Kate Turner-Walker's costumes, specifically the Rose's Spanish-inspired ensemble and the snake's glittering black gown and long train.
Round House Theatre