Maybe it’s too cold to go sledding or perhaps the snow has turned to slush. Either way, theater can be a fine escape for the family on a dreary weekend. And over the next few weeks, there will be plenty of options for tots, teens and in-betweens: a classic American book transformed into a 50-minute adventure, a beloved tale from “The Arabian Nights” played out with puppetry and an adaptation of a 1920 horror film.
Here are some of the highlights:
Children wriggled with delight when a cute and cuddly elephant carrying a princess on his back strolled down the aisle during a recent show of Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp at the Puppet Co. They oooh’d and ahhhh’d when a ginormous genie loomed onstage. The Puppet Co., now in its 31st year at Glen Echo Park, creates theatrer with rod puppets (operated from below the stage), marionettes, hand puppets and shadow puppetry, depending on the show. “Aladdin” uses mostly rod puppets and features original video projections and lavish, jewel-toned costumes.
“We try to mix up our styles with every production, so our audiences never know what to expect next,” says Christopher Piper, Puppet Co.’s artistic director and co-founder. “We are a repertory company, and if people just see the same thing over and over again, they’re going to lose interest.”
Parents may notice that in this production, the name of the young hero, who triumphs over an evil magician, marries a princess and lives out his dreams, is pronounced the Arabic way — Ah-la-DEEN. Piper says that Muslim parents appreciate it and that the kids pick it up easily by the end of the show.
“We do a little goodbye with the puppets as the children are leaving,” he says, “and of course they are all very proud that they call him Ala-DEEN.”
“Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp,” through March 15 at the Puppet Co., 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. 301-634-5380. www.thepuppetco.org. $10. Ages 5-11. (The next show is “Jack and the Beanstalk,” starting March 19.)
For older kids with an interest in film, the folks at Pointless Theatre, who mix it up with live actors, puppetry and design, have adapted the 1920 silent horror film “The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari.” The film is an iconic example of German expressionist cinema, with dizzying sharp angles, deep shadows and a creepy tale about a “doctor” who brings a spooky somnambulist to perform at a town fair. Pointless says that its version, Doctor Caligari, is suitable for kids age 13 and older.
The company’s music director, Michael Winch, wrote an original score for the 70-minute piece, and co-artistic director Patti Kalil designed sets and props to re- create the images that made the film so darkly effective. The sets, Kalil says, were painted in grayscale tones, then bathed in saturated colors by lighting designer Navid Azeez, echoing the way filmmakers of old hand-tinted black-and-white frames of film to intensify moods and effects.
“Painting in a grayscale world doesn’t mean black-and-white,” Kalil explains. “It means, ‘What would things look like if they were in a black-and-white film?’ Red [calls for] a different kind of gray than blue.
“We’re trying to do our best to allude to the movie visually,” she adds. “I think it’s impossible to replicate everything, but what’s really fascinating is [that] whatever we paint will drastically change in the lighting. . . . I think it’s our way of embracing the black and white.”
“Doctor Caligari,” through April 4 at the Mead Theatre Lab, 916 G St. NW. 202-733-6321. www.pointlesstheatre.com. $20-$25, $18 for students and seniors. Age 13 and older.
In April, Adventure Theatre-MTC will premiere a 50-minute adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz based on the original book by L. Frank Baum. Playwright Jacqueline E. Lawton (“The Hampton Years,” “Anna K”) says she has tried to dramatize moments of conflict and suspense that are resolved too easily in the book — at least too easily for theater. She sees the whole adventure as Dorothy’s discovery of how to be a little girl in a big world.
“It’s about her really understanding what can she do, how can she contribute, how can she be a good young person . . . how to believe in her own self,” Lawton says. “It becomes a really important message in the play: loving your family, loving what you have, appreciating what you have, learning how to be a good friend. . . . I think that’s really powerful.”
The cast is diverse, she adds, which shows young people “a traditional story, being told through the lens of a multiracial cast. So everyone feels that they can be Dorothy. That becomes the most important, ultimately.”
Paige Hernandez, a busy Washington-based actor, choreographer and director, will play Dorothy, whom she describes as “sassy” but not “attitude-sassy.”
“She loves life in a place and an environment where everything is drabby. . . . Auntie Em and her relatives and everyone is kind of down and out and everyone’s gray, but Dorothy is very spicy and sparky and alive and still dreams.”
Playing such a fabled character is a tall order, Hernandez concedes. “From the time the lights come up, you’ve got to like me and you’ve got to be ready to go on a journey — just with Dorothy and her ups and downs — and by the end be cheering for her.”
“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” April 3 through May 25 at Adventure Theatre MTC, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. 301-634-2270. www.adventuretheatre-mtc.org. $19. All ages.
Sunny and Licorice, from Northern Virginia-based Arts on the Horizon, which produces theater for the youngest children, is a dance-inspired piece about a zoo orangutan and his new roommate. Through Saturday at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. 202-399-7993. www.artsonthehorizon.org. $8. Ages 2-6.
Wiley and the Hairy Man, a musically rich tale about a boy from the bayou and how he faces down his biggest fear, continues at Imagination Stage. Through March 15 at Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda. 301-280-1660. www.imaginationstage.org. $10-$30. Age 6 and older. (“Sinbad: The Untold Tale,” opens April 8.)
The Metromaniacs is a riotous farce about upper-class twits obsessed with poetry in 18th-century France. Naughty, but not dirty (as my mom used to say), it’s fine for teens. Through March 22 at the Lansburgh Theatre, 450 Seventh St. NW. 202-547-1122. www.shakespearetheatre.org. $20-$100, with discounts for students. Age 13 and older.
Blossom’s Rainbow, another Arts on the Horizon show, will play at the Athenaeum in Alexandria this month and then at Atlas in April. The piece celebrates Japanese culture for little ones. Featuring music and dance, the show imagines a painter’s brush sending a cherry blossom along on its fluttery travels. Wednesday-March 29 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria. April 3-11 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. 202-399-7993. www.artsonthehorizon.org. $8. Ages 2-5.
Freedom’s Song: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, at Ford’s Theatre, marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, with music by Frank Wildhorn (“Jekyll & Hyde”) and direction by Jeff Calhoun (“Newsies the Musical”). The show will feature the words of Lincoln, letters from people who lived during the war and period costumes. March 13-May 20 at Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW. 202-347-4833. www.fords.org. $29-$69. Age 10 and older.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.