Imagination Stage presents Aquarium, a delightful interactive show designed especially for children up to the age of five, directed by Kate Bryer. As I am standing in line waiting for the house to open, a woman holding her young daughter tell me that they loved the show so much during it’s last run, that they came back to see it again. Parents are chatting together while their children wait with impatient excitement, slowly drumming up a chorus of “mi mi mi mi mi,” until it rings throughout the hall, “MI MI MI MI MI MI!” Twenty-some tots, expressing together in their own way, “Let us in!”
When we enter the stage, the adults and children are seated on the floor in a large circle, which is called “the island.” Jack, played by Dylan Myers, genially chats with the children until everyone has settled. The lighting, done by Zac Gilbert, uses colored spotlights and shadows to effectively capture the atmosphere. Lyngo Theatre Company, UK, expertly handles the set, props, and costumes for this production.
Jack begins the show through a series of energetic leaps, bounds, and juggling, while making sure to give face-time to the whole circle. He engages the audience by asking them questions, and introduces his co-star ‘Calypso,’ played by Hyla Matthews. Together, they get a number of tasks done with the help of the children. Plastic lemons (or, “sunbeams”) are passed to the children, and they are asked to come and hand them to Jack so that he may build an arch of sunlight, which they do so happily. Once the arch is complete (who knew an arch of plastic lemons would be so pretty?) they decide to turn their island into a garden. Children and adults alike get a chance to participate. One particularly bemused father sportingly dons an apron and is re-name ‘Annie’ by the children – a story that I’m sure will be a favorite in his family’s future.
Jack and Calypso use a number of creative props to entertain the children. For example, when Jack asks the children to close their eyes and tap their fingers to make rain sounds, Calypso deftly circles the crowed with an umbrella that has an upended water bottle perched on top, which, as she spins, realistically rains down water on the children’s faces. Bells and stuffed sheep are passed out, amongst other things, and finally a blue sheet is stretched out and everyone grabs a piece. They then shake the sheet to form ocean waves, and Jack and Calypso wave beautiful jellyfish kites through the air as stuffed fish “swim” in the waves. The ocean segment of the show proved to be the unanimous favorite, with lots of movement, energy, and happy squealing from the children. Some overexcited children found the island too tempting to stay seated, and had to be repeatedly coaxed back to their seats.
As the show winds down, many children exclaim, “I don’t want to go!” while others excitedly chat with their newfound friends. The show was lively, engaging, and left the children very happy. They all seemed to have a blast, and their parents had a good time watching their children have so much fun. A truly enjoyable family outing, you will not regret treating your child to a performance of Aquarium.
Running time is 60 minutes
Aquarium plays through July 31st at Imagination Stage -4908 Auburn Avenue in Bethesda, MD. Purchase tickets by calling (301) 280-1660, or by ordering them online.