“The Cat in the Hat,” published in 1957, introduced a popular figure in classic children’s literature and the debut of author Dr. Seuss, who before had written under his given name of Theodor Geisel.
Geisel was motivated, he said, by the dull reading primers for children and thought writers could do better.
Dr. Seuss’s first book concerns a cat wearing a tall, red-and-white-striped hat and a red bow tie who is the very definition of mischievous. He is also anthropomorphic, which means despite his feline form, he has human attributes.
The Cat shows up at the house of Sally and her (unnamed) brother one rainy day when their mother is out (for whatever reason). Then, over the objections of the children’s two fish, he wreaks havoc.
“The Cat in the Hat” will appear locally later this month, in production at Adventure Theatre.
Making his Adventure Theater debut in the title role is Louis Davis.
“I didn’t get into acting until 2012,” he said. “I started in theater by working the box office at Arena Stage.”
The winner of two Helen Hayes ensemble awards performed previously in children’s theater at Imagination Stage.
“‘The Cat in the Hat’ is a classic,” Davis said “Everyone has read it at some point or another. It’s just iconic.”
Directing the production is Adam Immerwahr, artistic director of Theater J at the Edlavitch DCJCC. Before the current phase of his career, Immerwahr immersed himself in children’s theater.
For some time, he said, Michael Bobbitt, outgoing artistic director of Adventure Theatre, and he were looking for a children’s vehicle to work on together.
“It’s exciting to go back to my roots,” Immerwahr said, particularly with what might be one of the most popular children’s tales ever.
“It’s both transgressions — the children watch as the Cat’s friends, Thing One and Thing Two — mess up the house royally,” Immerwahr commented. “But it’s also about what you do after it happens. Do you tell Mom, or don’t you?”
Another theme that revolves around the show is imaginative play.
The children and companions take ordinary things around the house – a dress, milk, balls and a tennis racket – and construct an entire world.
The Adventure Theatre production incorporates puppets. Unlike some shows, the puppeteers are seen, rather than hidden from view. “Adam wants audiences to be able to see the magic,” Davis said.
And there are all kinds of puppets, including silhouette puppets that throw shadow images.
“Manipulating puppet is certainly a challenge,” Davis said. “I had a little experience with them at Imagination Stage, but that was a long time ago.”
The action is enhanced by an “amazing” soundtrack, using the music of Henry Mancini, a movie composer perhaps best known for the score of “The Pink Panther.”
Since toys and puppets get thrown around a lot on stage, the theater uses what Davis calls a “big contraption” to clean everything up.
Ari Shapiro, the noted radio journalist affiliated with National Public Radio, also makes an appearance as the story’s narrator.
“The Cat in the Hat” presented at Adventure Theatre was initially produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain, adapted and originally directed by Katie Mitchell. It is recommended for all ages.
Debora Crabbe is Sally; John Sygar plays her brother. Jonathan Miot and Caroline Wolfson form the ensemble.
“The Cat in the Hat” runs June 21-August 18 at Adventure Theatre, 7300 MacArthur Boulevard at Glen Echo Park. www.adventuretheatre-mtc.org.