There's something about Laura Numeroff's children's books that lend themselves well for the stage. Perhaps it is the deceptive simplicity: a human befriends an animal, great fun ensues, and lessons are learned.
Or perhaps it is the clear, episodic nature of her plots. One event naturally leads to another and before you know it, a big adventure of the imagination is under way. Taking cues from earlier stage adaptations of Numeroff's books like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and If You Take a Mouse to the Movies, Lexington Children's Theatre is back with a new Numeroff inspired play about pancakes, pigs, and new friends.
Adapted by Marianne Pendino and produced in cooperation with Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo, Md., If You Give a Pig a Pancake is a 50-minute escape deep into one of the most sacred aspects of childhood: play.
Heather Lockard's colorful mish-mash of bright plaids, not quite clashing pinks and greens, and eclectic costume designs emphasizes the quirky friendship that is about to unfold. Furthering that idea are scenic designer Brenden McDougal's checkerboard floor and fun, innovative set pieces (a kitchen table later reveals a hidden piano, a sink becomes a bathtub with the wave of a magic loofah).
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Ashley Isenhower stars as Laura, a 6-year-old who has a few hours to kill at home while her mom runs errands and her dad works upstairs. At first, Laura is perfectly content to make her own fun. She and her stuffed pig doll wear astronaut helmets and pretend to be on a space adventure. During a glitch with re-entry, Laura accidentally drops her stuffed pig out the window. Next thing you know, a real pig appears in the same window.
Enter Felicia (played with infectious spunk by Nicole Floyd), a fun-loving pig from a farm in Maine with a huge appetite for fun. And pancakes. With lots of maple syrup. A syrupy pig leads to a bath, which leads to a rubber duck, which leads to a tale of Felicia's farm life back home, which leads to suitcase packing, which, in a fit of distraction, leads to tap dancing and singing and letter writing and tree house building. Oh my!
Director Jeremy Kisling deserves praise for cultivating an atmosphere of authentic play. Isenhower and Floyd share keen timing that seems more spontaneous than choreographed but what's more, they are pretty accurate. As a former little girl who played "pretend" for hours on end with siblings and friends, I felt suddenly reminded of what that felt like and why it was so important.
Like most LCT offerings, the play isn't the entire thing. There are messages beneath the veneer of the story's surface, like empowering young girls to think of careers in fields like science and farming, the value of imagination and downtime, and, as Felicia hammily sings, the importance of putting a little chaos in the order of the day.