Having missed Mum Puppettheatre's previous two
Adventures of a Boy and his Dog
(in Outer Space and in Old Philadelphia), I was worried I might be at a disadvantage reviewing the third installment in the series,
The Adventures of a Boy and His Dog on the High Seas
Happily, there is no through-line that would require a viewer to be familiar with the characters here. It's pretty much a boy and his dog, and, well, their adventures, this time in search of buried treasure.
Clocking in at roughly 40 minutes, the piece is just long enough to charm its young audience and keep them (mostly) still and (mostly) quiet for the duration.
True to the company's name, there are no words in the story, a fact that certainly helps to focus the audience's attention, but could just as easily result in a mutiny among the ranks. Preventing this potential anarchy is Adam Wernick's jaunty, delightful original music, which plays throughout the production.
The puppets also have their charms, including a pair of pirates with windmilling arms that they use to frequently sock each other, a friendly manatee, and the piebald dog of the title, whose frenzied tail-wagging speaks louder than words anyway.
Be forewarned that, in a few scenes, both the boy and his dog, among others, are tossed from the ship's deck. Though this may frighten some of the more sensitive members of the audience, rest assured that director Robert Smythe has seen to it that all puppets emerge from the murky depths unscathed.
The dog even has a brief undersea adventure that, thanks to puppeteers Genevieve Perrier, Dave Johnson and Robert DaPonte, is as graceful to watch as it is soothing for those worried souls who wonder if he'll be OK.
Smythe could probably have stretched this show a bit by including a few similar scenes, in which form takes precedence over function. After all, though Punch and Judy made it this far by chasing each other around and bopping themselves on the heads, Mum has made it this far on its reputation for artistry and innovation.
Still, though Smythe's nautical escapade is about the same length as an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, you can probably guess which one contains the treasure.
Written by Robert Smythe, directed by Robert Smythe.
Music by Adam Wernick.
Puppeteers: Genevieve Perrier, Dave Johnson, Robert DaPonte.
Playing at Mum Puppettheatre, 115 Arch St., Philadelphia. Through June 10. Tickets: $12. Information: 215-925-8686 or www.mumpuppet.org.