Theater

A Little Too Much 'Little Prince'

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By Peter Marks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 24, 2006

You can see how much care went into the planning of Round House Theatre's presentation of "The Little Prince." Dominating the stage is designer James Kronzer's eye-catching mock-up of the plane that the story's Aviator has ditched in the Sahara, where he famously meets that inquisitive, diminutive person from another planet.

A play, though, must possess more moving parts than an exhibit at the Air and Space Museum. And unfortunately, through much of this bland and overlong exercise, nothing much moves -- or moves you. Your energy is directed less at containing your glee than stifling your yawns.

Some fans ascribe deep, contemplative significance to Antoine de Saint-Exupery's 1943 story, which is constructed mainly as a conversation between the Aviator and the Prince, who reveals that he comes from a planet of talking flowers, and of sunsets that occur 44 times a day. Although the tale is set in the forbidding landscape in which the airman struggles to survive, the Little Prince's recollections transport the reader to worlds of enchantment and whimsy.

The play's adapters, Rick Cummins and John Scoullar, remain faithful to their source, which in this case is to say that their work opts for reverence over drama.

Soon after we meet the worried Aviator (Craig Wallace), he is startled by the appearance of the boy-prince (Jamie Klassel), and they form a friendship through which the man teaches the boy about life on Earth, and the boy imparts his own brands of truth and wisdom.

Director Eric Ting works through the Prince's episodic reminiscences in a secure visual style. The stories of his brief trips to other asteroids and planets, for instance, are played out on a stage-within-a-stage, each visit conceived as a skit and marked by the drawing of a curtain. The pace that the director establishes, however, is so leisurely that if your seat were equipped with a horn, you'd be inclined to lean on it. (At an hour and 45 minutes with intermission, the show is about 45 minutes too long.)

Wallace makes for a fairly stolid Aviator. He's more animated (and more successful) in the second act, when he appears as the growling Fox, whom the Prince seeks to civilize.

As the Prince, Klassel, an adult actress, plays the winsome card a bit too zealously. Only boys who don't mind being tormented by their peers would dare to behave this adorably.

The Little Prince, by Rick Cummins and John Scoullar, based on the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Directed by Eric Ting. Costumes, Kate Turner-Walker; lighting, Colin K. Bills; sound, Leyna Marika Papach; props, Michelle Elwyn. With Elaine Yuko Qualter, Jen Plants. About 1 hour 45 minutes. Through Dec. 10 at Round House Theatre, 4545 East West Hwy., Bethesda. Call 240-644-1100 or visit http://www.roundhousetheatre.org.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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