How I Became a Pirate

I just have to say the word “pirate” to get my kids’ attentions. Adventure Theatre goes one better and launches its 66th season with the musical How I Became a Pirate.

Yes, it’s all about pirates. How to talk and swordfight like a pirate. How to dress like a pirate. And most of all how to behave like a pirate.

When the play begins, the beachy set evokes a classic summer day, with its striped beach umbrellas and vintage boardwalk music. Jeremy Jacob is a little boy playing with his sand castle when he spies a pirate ship anchoring offshore. He alerts his parents, who basically reply, “That’s nice, son.”

How I Became a Pirate at Adventure Theatre

The crew of six buccaneers arrive on the scene with more merriment than menace – thankfully not upsetting any little kids in the audience, including my character-phobic five-year-old daughter, who shrinks from anyone in costume.

The ship had taken a wrong turn at Bora Bora, according to Swill the Pirate, who is consulting Google Maps on his smartphone. The privateers need a digger who can bury their treasure chest. Jeremy Jacob, with his plastic shovel, volunteers.  The pirate ship itself looks like your ultimate dream playset (kudos to the set designer). I swear I could see the wheels turning in my five-year-old’s head as her eyes lit up and she plotted how to convince her dad to build her something similar in the backyard.

How I Became a Pirate at Adventure Theatre

The songs – and jokes – come fast and furious as the crew educate Jeremy Jacob on the ins and outs of being a pirate. You can talk with your mouth full. You never have to say “please” or “thank you.” You never brush your teeth.

  • “Pirates don’t do anything we don’t want to,” says one.
     
  • “Except swabbing the deck,” reminds another.
     
  • “And cleaning out the bilge,” says another. It turns out that, after all, pirates have a lot of things they need to do as well.

For his part, Jeremy Jacob teaches the pirates about the joys of soccer – a game that can’t be played without very specific rules. The buccaneers have to admit that rules can be a good thing sometimes.

The talented actors keep the mood light and fast-paced, firing off jokes about the poop deck, booty, Wii gaming consoles, and Gilligan’s Island. (I suspect the bigger kids and the adults in the audience may have appreciated a lot of the jokes more than the little kids.) One-eyed Sharktooth sings a hilarious song about being “just a sensitive dude.” And the shenanigans build to such an uproarious pitch that Swill pauses and asks the audience: “Too much?”

How I Became a Pirate at Adventure Theatre

Despite all the fun he is having, Jeremy Jacob does reach peak pirate. Even the most swashbuckling crew can’t make up for the comforts and routines of home; and Jeremy misses reading books with his parents and his bedtime kiss. Like all adventures, this one comes to an end with a mixture of relief and regret. The crew promise Jeremy Jacob that they’ll return one day – and I can’t help wishing as well that those zany pirates show up in a sequel.

Additional Information

  • How I Became a Pirate runs through October 22. Tickets are $19.50 each. If you order tickets over the phone at 301-634-2270 and talk like a pirate, you get 10% off your tickets. The show is recommended for all ages.
  • American Sign Language Interpreted Performance is Sept 30 at 2 p.m. Sensory/Autism Friendly Performance is October 14 at 2 p.m.
  • Parking is free and available on site at Glen Echo Park. It is about a 7-minute walk from the parking lot to the theater.

Photos courtesy of Michael Horan.