Like the 1883 Italian novel from which it's adapted, Lee Hall's play about a willful marionette is not a sunny tale. Skillfully staged by director Stephen Rothman, this commedia dell'arte piece follows the random adventures of a self-centered puppet named Pinocchio (Amber Zion, voiced by Darrin Revitz) who is robbed, tricked, beaten and left for dead (among other misfortunes) before being happily reunited with his elderly father, Geppetto (Matthew Henerson, signed by Colin O'Brien-Lux). Unlike the Disney version, this Pinocchio is no dreamer; he's given to sulking, throwing tantrums and sometimes acting with malice — like answering a Cricket's (Vae) advice by killing the insect with a mallet. Nineteenth-century novelist Carlo Collodi, who wrote the original, imbued his work with an implied middle-class admonishment to children: Work hard and go to school. Hall's adaptation is well-grounded in the original, so don't come expecting profound political allegory or sizzling social satire. (One scene relates to controversy within the deaf community about the pressures of learning to speak versus communicating with sign language.) Yet the production offers an abundance of eye-catching production values and a fine ensemble gifted in the art of physical comedy. Designer Evan Bartoletti's set frames the show with a fairy tale magic, further enhanced by Joe Cerqua's sound and original music and by the collective zaniness of Ann Closs-Farley's costumes, Carol F. Doran's makeup and wigs and Lisa Lechuga's specialty hats. Henerson's booming but kindly papa and James Royce Edwards as the evil ringmaster give standout performances. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., Sat., March 26, 8 p.m., through March 27. (818) 762-2998.

Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sat., March 26, 8 p.m.; March 31-April 2, 8 p.m. Starts: Feb. 25. Continues through March 27, 2011

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