David Staller, the artistic director of the Gingold Group, has made his mission to celebrate the plays of George Bernard Shaw. To that end, the group offers readings of Shaw plays monthly and hosts discussions about him. One play each year receives a fully staged production. The current offering, Caesar and Cleopatra, is a rarity. Although it’s interesting, it’s less satisfying than, for instance, its low-budget Heartbreak House was last season.
Cirque du Soleil’s latest extravaganza, Luzia, draws on a Mexican theme for its storyline, but in a way that proves more accessible than some of the earlier productions. It’s subtitled “A Waking Dream of Mexico,” and under that guise it presents the feats of strength, agility and clowning with less obligation to a plot that can feel murky. An announcer sets it all up: he is a pilot of Flight 2016 to Mexico; the audience is in the passenger seats; and as the plane takes off, the fliers are meant to relax and doze into an in-flight fantasia.
The Ensemble for the Romantic Century puts together hybrids of theater, classical music—both vocal and instrumental—and readings of letters or diaries to create its productions. For Hans Christian Andersen, its latest offering, the group has increased the hybrid entertainment by adding puppetry for its story of the life of the great Danish fairy-tale writer: marionettes, hand puppets, and some that are much larger.
Made in China is a decidedly adult musical from Wakka Wakka, a New York–based theater company that prides itself on challenging “the boundaries of the imagination” with “bold, unique, and unpredictable” entertainments. This visually engaging production is performed by a host of black-veiled puppeteers manipulating intricately crafted bunraku-style puppets designed by Kirjan Waage. The script, by Waage and Gwendolyn Warnock (“with help from the Made in China Ensemble”), pushes the boundaries of puppet earthiness with a vengeance—it features puppet nudity, a puppet performing ordinarily private bodily functions, puppet copulation (both human and canine), and a puppet-dragon that has a mind-blowing digestive system.
There are only so many ways to describe the Jessica Scott's avant-garde Ship of Fools, currently at HERE Arts Center. On the one hand, it is a unique combination of original music, puppetry, video, and live action, yet on the other it comes across as disjointed and meaningless—imagine Disney’s “It’s a Small World” born in the 1960s Haight-Ashbury. The audience is seated on a platform that moves left or right, and sometimes rotates completely, giving the performers time to set up the next vignette on the perimeter.
Fans of the hit television sitcom The Golden Girls can now experience Blanche (Cat Greenfield), Rose (Arlee Chadwick), Dorothy (Michael LaMasa) and Sophia (Emmanuelle Zeesman) all over again. But this time these lovely ladies have returned as puppets in Jonathan Rockefeller’s That Golden Girls Show!—A Puppet Parody. Capitalizing on moments from the original television show for loyal fans is where this production shines. Nostalgia quickly sets in upon entering the theater. Scenic and lighting designer David Goldstein marvelously transforms the stage into the women’s popular 1985 Miami living room and kitchen.
It’s rare to see anything remotely like Torry Bend’s The Paper Hat Game: a seamless and brilliant performance collage of live puppets, small-scale set models, a variety of video modalities, intricate soundscape, and more. The delicacy, virtuosity, and utter freshness of this avant-garde theater work at the 3LD Art & Technology Center will delight you long after you’ve left the theater. Unselfconsciously Dada, surrealist, naturalist and psychodrama by turns, it is also none of those things: something utterly new.
The thing most everyone loves about birds is their ability to fly, yet one of the first things we do is catch them and put them in a cage. The same can be said of love. Told without a single spoken word, Butterfly, currently at 59E59 Theaters, unwraps a story of a kite-maker who is courted by a customer but is smitten with a butterfly catcher. The hour-long production is rich with symbolism, European and Asian sensibilities, and movement choreographed to haunting original music.