Bradley Theatre’s “Pinocchio” not your average puppet show

From the moment the spotlight gleams on the brooding face of the lonely widower Gepeto (Steve Snyder), it is clear this show is not based on the Disney classic we all know and love.

This play is much darker than the heart-warming Disney version, and really delves deeper into personal conflicts that trouble both Pinocchio (Dean Beever) and Gepeto as they try to understand one another.

This not only shows us the more humanistic side of both of these characters as they interact with the world around them, but it also reveals how desolate the outside world can actually be.

Seeing all of this unfold makes you feel like you just stepped into an episode of “The Twilight Zone” because of the weirdly majestic tone that is prevalent in the supporting cast.

All of this makes Pinocchio not only a darkly captivating experience, but also by far one of the best plays I’ve seen to date.

The plot follows the basic premise of the movie, with Gepeto creating a boy out of wood who eventually gets caught up in the vibrant world that surrounds him. However, it’s how this sense of wonder and curiosity is conveyed by the brilliant lead that really brings the world around him to life.

From the beginning it is clear Pinocchio is a boy who loves to learn. He does so in an endearing, yet expectantly clumsy fashion, from the moment he takes his first real steps to when he learns his first words. While this process does take some time and effort on the part of the dedicated Gepeto, it eventually pays off (for better for worse) as it pushes the innocently curious Pinocchio into the perilous world which is far stranger and unpredictable than Gepeto’s quaint cabin.

Along the way, Pinocchio encounters several peculiar characters that seem to be out to get him in some dastardly fashion with the exception of one friendly soul, Romeo (Drew Gilbert).

The rest of the cast is not so friendly and supportive, as the vast majority of them attempt to use the gullible character for their own personal gains. Everyone from the gregarious and conniving Puppet Master (Andrew Kuhlman) to the tough and intimidating Tattoo Man (Dave Jackson), not forgetting the clever teamwork of both the wily Cat (Anne Marie Boyer) and the deceptive Fox (Ben Scarbrough) who on more than one occasion deceive Pinocchio into treacherous situations. Even I started to fall for them because they were just that believable.

What makes this show even crazier, however, are Gepeto’s dreams and the dancing marionette scene. The lonely Gepeto is plagued by the loss of his wife Edythe (Dana Trampas), which leads to him having an unhealthy obsession over his wooden creation of her, and even a dream about her which goes sour quickly, and further destroys any lasting hope he has of bringing her back.

As for the superbly choreographed marionette dance, it’s probably one of the creepier, yet darkly entrancing sequences I’ve ever seen. The way in which their bodies contort conveys a sense of torture, yet the painted grins on their faces lead you to think the opposite, which leaves you wondering what these lifeless beings would say if they could speak.

The set is also one of the more innovative constructions I’ve seen in any play, and goes a long way in portraying the scenes accurately. The majority of the scenes come to life with simple wooden arches, which don’t appear to do much at first, but as the play goes on it becomes apparent they can be anything from lingering trees in a dark forest to tables and sign holders. These simple creations go a long way in presenting each scene as it should be: simple, yet captivating in a way that makes you feel like you’re there.

In the end, I found “Pinocchio” was more to me than just a school play – it was a magical journey that showed me how even when times are dark and seemingly hopeless, there is always someone out there who cares for you no matter how alone or different you may feel. If you are looking for a truly entertaining experience that will capture your mind and heart, go see this masterpiece because it will captivate you from beginning to end and leave you emotionally satisfied after the last scene.