Chicago Theatre Review
A Puppet’s World is Flat
The Table – Chicago Shakespeare Theatre
As part of CST’s lauded and much-welcome World Stages Series, the United Kingdom’s eclectic Blind Summit Theatre tours to Navy Pier with a three-person, one-puppet performance that defies description. Not so much a play, and certainly not a “puppet show” in the literal sense, this ingeniously offbeat 70-minute production is part philosophical discussion, part stand-up comedy act.
The technical support for this performance couldn’t be simpler: a table placed front and center on an otherwise empty stage, enough lighting to illuminate Moses, the irascible Bunraku star of this performance piece, and his puppeteers Mark Down, Sean Garratt and Irena Stratieva. As director, Down operates the character’s left hand and large, cardboard head, while providing Moses‘ voice. Garratt controls the puppet’s right hand and “bum” while Ms. Stratieva, bent over the table, manipulates the character’s feet. With the puppeteers clad entirely in black, the effect is that Moses is really in control of his humans.
Originally commissioned by London’s Jewish Community Center to create a Passover show entitled “The Other Seder,” Blind Summit devised this piece to show Moses’ humanity as God’s mouthpiece. That the performance evolves into a very funny discourse about God and Man, with a nod to modern cultural references and existentialism, makes for a light-hearted evening suitable for all audiences, high school through adult.
The performance is fun and creative, with some variety provided from a few audience volunteers; one particular portion of the evening that grows out of an unexpected blackout culminates in the puppet losing his hand and seems totally improvised. The truth is that, while the production employs a certain amount of improvisation, this is a very polished, mostly-scripted performance. After a while, however, the simplicity gets a bit stale and the repetition becomes redundant, but the overall effect is a humorous event for the masses that makes new use of puppetry in modern theatre.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented in a limited two-week run, Oct. 16-27, by Blind Summit Theatre at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s Upstairs space, Navy Pier, Chicago.
Tickets are available by calling the box office at 312-595-5600 or by going to www.chicagoshakes.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found at www.theatreinchicago.com.