Friday, January 19, 2007

Under The Radar: "A Beautiful View" and "Famous Puppet Death Scenes"

Ah, and this is why a well-curated theater festival is the best thing in the world. I got the chance to meet Mark Russell and speak to him about what he calls "new theater on iPod Shuffle mode"; better still was the opportunity to see two fully mounted productions: Daniel MacIvor's A Beautiful View and Old Trout Puppet Workshop's delightful Famous Puppet Death Scenes.

I raved about MacIvor's Never Swim Alone during the '06 Fringe Festival: I do it again for his new show. Not only does MacIvor know how to direct cinematically, but he can do it without a set. He catches his cast of two in-love-and-then-out-of-love-again women like deer in headlights, vulnerable and true, and we need only use imagination to see the characters camping in the middle of the woods, dancing at a bar, or performing in their rock band "Uklear" (their armed with ukuleles). The excellent performances from Tracy Wright and Caroline Gillis solidify it: I've said that theater is really just about storytelling, and that's what A Beautiful View is. A sad story in the vein of Brokeback Mountain, but more than that, an honest accounting of two lives for which "nothing is enough." (Read into that quote whichever way you want.)

[Read on]

As for Famous Puppet Death Scenes, if you saw The Fortune Teller or, to a lesser extent, The Rapture Project, this may not be essential theater. But you should see it anyway. Old Trout goes for cheap laughs at first, but only to set you up for the deeper punch of more affecting scenes: what they've managed to express with puppets is incredible. Each vignette features a twist-worthy death, but part of that twist is the presentation, which includes a magnified monster butterfly, a pop-up book that shows domestic violence, a moving set that reveals what happens to children who like to dress up as deer, and several foreign language pieces that are more than crystal clear. "The Last Whale" is nothing more than the heavy, dulling eye of a giant whale, with a thousand years of life summed up into one sagging eyelid and a moment of silence.

[Read on]

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