- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A crocodile in the tub usually prompts a panicked call to Animal Control. However, when the Primm family finds a reptile wriggling in the bathroom of their Manhattan brownstone, it’s a cause for celebration.

This is no run-of-the-marsh croc. It’s Lyle (Matthew McGloin), dapper in a gecko-green suit — with tails, of course — and a tie. A primordial multitasker, Lyle can hula-hoop, ride a unicycle, play the saxophone and concoct tasty hors d’oeuvres. To the Primms, he’s indispensable, but the outside world often is not as welcoming to the out-of-the-ordinary.

Based on two picture books by Bernard Waber and adapted by Minnesota playwright Kevin Kling, “Lyle the Crocodile” — directed for Imagination Stage by Kathryn Chase Bryer — will warm up even the most coldblooded humans with its upbeat message about liking people (and other creatures) simply for who they are.

There’s also the impishly ingratiating personality of Lyle.

Who wouldn’t want a croc like Lyle — lovingly personified by Mr. McGloin in a gymnastic and inventive performance — around? On a tour of the Big Apple with Mrs. Primm (Misty Demory, perfect as a perky ‘50s housewife), he dances like Mikhail Baryshnikov at the ballet, whips her into an impromptu street tango and tops off the day by hitting a big sale at Grumps Department Store. He also delights young Joshua Primm (Sean Silvia) by constantly being up for a parade, and his “Phantom of the Opera” impression and syncopated marching-band-style dancing are not to be missed.

However, the scaly Lyle rubs some people the wrong way. Mr. Grumps (Michael Glenn, creakily sinister and possessing a zany mad-scientist’s cackle) and his pampered cat, Loretta, view Lyle as a menace and want him caged in the zoo. Yet when Lyle risks life and prehensile limb to rescue Mr. Grumps and Loretta from a house fire, they realize that different isn’t so scary after all.

“Lyle” is a primary-colored treat with uplifting strains of sophistication — such as the opening number, a tribute to the sights, sounds and attitude of New York. It features references to the song “New York, New York,” in fact, and choreography from classic Broadway musicals. One of the exhilarating parade sequences contains allusions to Beyonce and other contemporary pop stars, and the set by Jeremy W. Foil cleverly folds and refolds like a picture book.

The cast is winning and energetic, especially Linden Taylor and Joe Brack. The two assume a variety of roles, most of which are variations on firefighters, police officers and other public officials engaged in comic one-upmanship. However, the true star of the show is Lyle. This croc rocks.

★★★½

WHAT: “Lyle the Crocodile,” based on the books by Bernard Waber, adapted by Kevin Kling

WHERE: Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays (1:30 p.m. on Friday), 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, selected 7 p.m. shows on Saturdays. Through Aug. 9.

TICKETS: $10 to $21

PHONE: 301/280-1660

WEB SITE: www.imaginationstage.org

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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