one puppet + one table = adorable
|Blind Summit presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
The Table is a show about a puppet on a table. Using the traditional Japanese Bunraku style of puppetry, three performers manipulate a two foot puppet named Moses. The puppet’s body looks like a naked Dobi from the “Harry Potter” movies. His face is an oversized cardboard type tribal mask. The three handlers are so synchronized in their handling of Moses that he appears alive. Sean Garratt is his right hand and bum. Irena Stratieva is his two feet. And Mark Down is his head, his left hand and his voice. The show is a combination of part improvised and part scripted. The threesome is wonderfully in sync. As Down says the words out loud, the other two are mimicking the words with silent lip reading and puppet gestures. The illusion brings Moses to life – so much so that I expect to see the puppet unmask, revealing a small man at the curtain call.
The show is a series of bits that centers around Moses having an existential crisis. He announces repeatedly, “I’m a puppet and this is a table.” It’s cute. And Moses is adorable! The skill of the puppetry is impressive feats of coordination. And the shtick is amusing. It just continues in the same vein. The show is about a puppet on a table. Moses measures out the size of the table, length, width, corner to corner. Again, it’s cute, but it gets old. By emphasizing the mundane, the comedy gets humdrum, even when delivered by an adorable puppet.
At one point, an audience member is recruited to help. Her efforts, I suspect planned, inject an unexpected twist of events. It’s charming, and the reaction of the performers seems at least partially impromptu. There is a level of fun just watching the puppeteers enjoying performing together. Down, in particular, takes great pleasure in trying to get Garratt to crack up laughing. Their camaraderie, as one entity yet independent parts, makes for an even more enjoyable frolic.
The Table is a show about a puppet on a table. If you enjoy your existential crisis with simplicity, humor and adorability, you’ll want to get a seat at The Table.
The Table continues through October 27th at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, at Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand (map), with performances Tuesdays-Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays 3pm and 8pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $20-$35, and are available by phone (312-595-5600) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at ChicagoShakes.com. (Running time: 70 minutes, NO intermission)
Photos by Lorna Palmer and Xue Qian
Mark Down, Sean Garratt, Irena Stratieva
behind the scenes
Mark Down (director, co-devisor), Nick Barnes (puppet artist, co-devisor), Sarah Calver, Sean Garratt, Mabel Jones, Irena Stratieva, Ivan Thorley (co-devisors), Lemez and Friedel (music), Richard Howell (lighting), Andrew Dawson (artistic consultant), Stephanie Hay (producer), Lorna Palmer, Xue Qian (photos)