Carlos Collodi’s original version of the Pinocchio tale is a morose piece of writing full of pathos and murky sadness. In it, Geppetto, the woodcarver who creates a wooden son, makes statements like, “Would it be possible to find a more ungrateful boy, or one with less heart than I have!” Indeed. Whether you make a son out of your loins or out of a tree, the likelihood of him being ungrateful at some point is fairly high, which makes it a relatable story. Along with the story’s extreme adventures, Pinocchio has a lasting appeal.
That said, Portland Ore.’s Tears of Joy Theatre sticks to a more fun-loving family-friendly version of the story in its puppeteered and live-action production, Pinocchio! Don’t worry, though, your kids will know not to lie by the end of the performance.
The show is more than a dude with a sock on his hand hiding behind a box. Tears of Joy has been producing puppet shows indoors and out for 35 years. Besides the the large rod puppets, the stage is populated with masked and unmasked actors who sing and speak to the crowd, as well as operate the characters. Rale Sidebottom, who brought the production to town and who worked in the theatre company in the 2000s, says that this version of Pinocchio!, “Is not dumbed down; it’s not cutesy or small.” In fact, there is an underwater scene in which Pinocchio finds himself swallowed up by a whale. Impressive, considering there is no actual water onstage. Plus, Bruce Willis shows up in the last scene and is all “Yippee-ki-yay, Pinocchio!” That, or I am lying.
Pinocchio! by the Tears of Joy Theatre is at the Wilma Theatre Sun., Dec. 16, at noon and 3 PM. Doors open one-half hour before the performance 12/$10 children. Tickets available at brownpapertickets.com or at the door.