Even as they wrap up their mainstage season in style with the delightfully nontraditional musical The Ballad of Little Jo, the folks at Red Bank’s Two River Theater maintain a recently established seasonal tradition when they welcome some of the world’s most acclaimed purveyors of family-friendly theater experiences for a guest engagement that begins this Thursday.
A co-production of Denmark’s Teater Refleksion and Ireland’s Branar Teater, The Way Back Home brings the children’s book by Oilver Jeffers to real-time life through use of skilled puppeteering and a production design that’s remarkably faithful to the author’s own whimsical illustrations.
One of a series of storybooks presented under the umbrella title Once There Was a Boy, the popular tale by the Brooklyn-based native of Northern Ireland spins the story of an imaginative and inquisitive young lad who happens to discover a small and magical airplane in his bedroom closet — a plane that carries him on an adventure to outer space, as well as a set of realizations about friendship and the importance of conquering one’s fears.
Recommended for grades pre-K through 2 — and part of an experience that pairs the 35-minute performance with a post-show crafting session in the Two River Theater lobby — The Way Back Home follows in the footsteps of last season’s end-of-school-year presentation of Where the Wild Things Are and a 2014 holiday season hosting of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, offering a pair of 10 a.m. school matinees on June 8 and 9. Those two days also feature general admission performances at 4 p.m. — and the show’s Red Bank run continues through the weekend with six additional public performances on June 10 and 11 (11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.).
The 1 p.m. Saturday show is a special “relaxed performance,” aimed at audience members with autism spectrum disorders and other sensitivity issues — a “judgment free” environment in which the music and sound effects are taken down a notch and attendees are able to move about and enjoy the event at their own pace. It’s a practice that’s been catching on with producers and presenters of children’s theater across North America, and it comes to Two River for the first time after having been offered for select events at the Count Basie Theatre.
All performances of The Way Back Home take place inside the Two River building’s “black box” Marion G. Huber Theater. Take it here for tickets ($20 adults; $15 kids 12 and under) — and keep it tuned to redbankgreen for updates on other guest events at Two River Theater during the summertime season.