Encore Michigan

Going old school: Instruction through puppetry

Review July 12, 2015 John Quinn

Article:9958; Posted: July 12, 2015 at 10:30 a.m.

There is a door in the wall of the theater at PuppetART that serves as an ad hoc guest book. Boldly scripted near the center is the observation, “’Puppets’ more real than reality.’” It’s one patron’s tribute to an art form that demonstrates Oscar Wilde’s tenet: “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”

The current production, “Banana for Turtle” employs the classic “string” guided marionette to perform one of the oldest functions for which societies have used puppetry–a means by which their philosophy and mores can be passed from generation to generation.

Four jungle friends–a monkey, a python, a parrot and an elephant–are waiting, not for Godot (who will not come), but for Turtle, who will come, albeit slowly. In the meantime, the companions explore some concepts as meaningful as Samuel Beckett’s, but much more interesting. While the theme that binds “Banana for Turtle” could by described as “discovery,” much of the play is an examination of perception. Monkey hangs from the trees by his knees and discovers a topsy-turvy world in which Python slithers upside down in a green sky. Which is “real?” And can, in a sense, both be real?

Irina Baranovskaya’s marionettes and scenery are striking combinations of color and form, attracting attention and keeping it. Once again, the engineering of the puppets is remarkable. Puppeteers Nick Pobutsky, Irina Baranovskaya and Jackie Strez take a curtain call in front of the puppet stage with their characters “walking” alongside. It reveals that three expert technicians handled five characters, quite a feat, but a tribute to dedication and craftsmanship.

“Banana for Elephant” is directed by Igor Gozman and features original music by Robby Gall. Yet again, PuppetART demonstrates unprecedented sophistication in what is considers “Theater for the Young,” and garnered six Wilde Award nominations for last season’s work. In addition, “Banana for Elephant,” a show suitable for the very, very young, should be visited by adults who didn’t learn the difference between subjectivity and objectivity the first time around. If we all saw this show, cable news and talk radio might go out of business altogether.

Week of 4/22/2019

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