Thursday, October 18, 2007

Famous Puppet Death Scenes

So Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, Jan Å vankmajer and the Monty Python guys all got together to write a puppet show about death.

Okay, they didn't. But if they had, the result would have been a lot like
The Old Trout Puppet Workshop's Famous Puppet Death Scenes, which we saw tonight at the ICA.

To be honest, I was a little reticent about going; visions of lugubrious Dickensian vignettes lurked in the back of my head. But then I read the program notes, which said, in part:

Some scenes, I admit, were impossible to reproduce--surely the climactic finale of Düsseldorf's "Colossal Jesus" should take its place here among the hallowed, but the theater is only so large and the practice of human sacrifice has largely gone out of fashion.

Oh, I realized, it's meant to be funny.

And indeed it was, in large part--from the recurring scenes of a middle-aged, floppy-armed little man trying to avoid being walloped by a disembodied fist to Das Bipsy und Mumu Puppenspiel, in which two amorphous European characters are forced to choose between life and death, with, um, intestinal results. (Nein, Bipsy! Nein!)

But it was also poetic (a whale's giant eye opening and closing for the last time in a shimmering sea) and painful (the unbearable silence following a violent domestic argument, the whole scene illustrated only through the pages of an oversized pop-up book) and moving (a grieving man's tender, final farewell).

My favorite was Ice Age, in which a terminally ill man awakes after being frozen for centuries to find humans have evolved: they all speak an advanced language, spend their time on choreography and look like Johnny Depp. They have also conquered death, which pleases the man immensely--until he learns they envy him the gift of mortality.

The Boy liked The Ballad of Edward Grue, a rural-gothic cautionary tale about dressing up as a deer during hunting season (especially effective were the scarlet ribbons that unfurled and spread down the front of Edward's prone body).

Oh, I'm sorry--did I give away the ending? See, that's the thing: even though each vignette was so creative and imaginative that there was no way to guess where the story would lead, the finale was always the same.

As it is for all of us, right?

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Blogger Laura Matthews said...

not for me, baby!


9:51 AM  
Blogger -mt said...

Nice! Your theater reviews are as tasty as your observations about food and dining.

2:42 AM  

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