Theater Review

'If You Give a Pig a Pancake': Holly Twyford goes hog wild

Worth rooting for: Holly Twyford, left, and Branda Locke in the show based on the Laura Joffe Numeroff book.
Worth rooting for: Holly Twyford, left, and Branda Locke in the show based on the Laura Joffe Numeroff book. (Bruce Douglas)
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By Celia Wren
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Holly Twyford, the Sarah Bernhardt of the D.C. theater scene, may have raked in Helen Hayes honors for roles in Shakespeare's works and modern classics. But catch her in Adventure Theatre's effervescent "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" -- adapted by Marianne Pendino from Laura Joffe Numeroff's children's book -- and you'll swear the actress was born to play a tap-dancing piglet.

Looking drop-dead adorable in a powder-pink outfit, with ears and a tail, Twyford brings elan and flawless comic timing to the role of Felicia, an exuberant, bossy porker who could probably sub for Savion Glover if she weren't so busy spilling maple syrup, splashing bathwater and generally wreaking havoc in a suburban house.

That house is home to Laura (Branda Lock), an 8-year-old who's under strict instructions to spend a day playing quietly so as not to bother her father, who's working upstairs. But calm goes out the window with the entry of Felicia, whose guiding precept is to live spontaneously. That philosophy finds a zesty correlative in director Jerry Whiddon's ingenious production, which features a cabinet morphing into a piano; a kitchen transforming into a tree-house; a floor that becomes a sea of hats; and a stylized girl-and-pig photo shoot, set to Madonna's "Vogue."

Lock brings convincing girlishness and kooky charm to the role of Laura; she's particularly funny in an early scene in which the girl -- dressed in pajamas and a helmet -- pretends to be an astronaut. The other creative contributors, too, add flavor to the "Pancake" recipe: Heather Lockard's costumes are bright and droll; Brenden McDougal's decorous domestic set complements the swine-instigated mayhem; and lighting designer Andrew F. Griffin adds stylish floods of nightclub-worthy color to the vogue-ing sequence. (Adventure's staging is presented in partnership with Lexington Children's Theatre in Kentucky, which featured Lockard's and McDougal's designs in an earlier production of the play.)

Still, it's Twyford -- ogling a flapjack; vamping for a Polaroid; swanning with a parasol through a Broadway-style anthem, "Spontaneity" -- who really brings home the theatrical bacon. If you only make one attempt this year to catch a major Washington artist impersonating a hoofin' barnyard critter, Twyford's Felicia should be it.

Wren is a freelance writer.

If You Give a Pig a Pancake

adapted by Marianne Pendino from the book by Laura Joffe Numeroff. Directed by Jerry Whiddon; musical direction/orchestration, Wayne Chadwick; sound design, Matt Otto; choreography, Karin Abromaitis; scenic artist, Sasha Goldstein. One hour. Recommended for all ages. Through Aug. 22 at Adventure Theatre, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Md. Call 301-634-2270 or visit http://www.adventuretheatre.org.


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