Review by Noelani Kamelamela
(Brookline, MA) Puppet Showplace Theatre produced the show Squirrel Stole My Underpants to ring out the old and terrible year of 2016. Originally created with the support of PST’s Incubator program as well as a grant from the Jim Henson Foundation in 2013, the Gottabees presented a rare puppet show that managed to capture the attention of kids and kids at heart without spoken words.
Stage center was the energetic Bonnie Duncan as young Sylvie (and more) surrounded by props, set and puppets which do for laundry day what Alice in Wonderland has done for tea parties and strange shrubberies. Each set piece slightly outdoes the next in context, color and whimsy. Although there is a squirrel and, the squirrel may in fact steal Sylvie’s underpants, there is a cheerful sense that Sylvie is defeating boredom by getting to take a moment away from the dreary task of hanging the laundry and not just earning her clothes back.
Although Brendan Burns (guitar) and Tony Leva (double bass) were to the side of the stage, they were active performers. All three Gottabees managed to attend to each other with the ability to vamp and allow each space and time to work with each other and the audience. Bonnie’s manipulation of puppets and set pieces didn’t have to precise in order to be read by the entire audience, but it helped with occasional body-twisting set-ups. Additionally, her use of mime with occasional bursts of nonsense noises built a calculated silliness that never overstayed its welcome. The pace could slacken to allow the audience to catch up, and then the pace could be picked up to keep bouts of silence or inattention to a minimum.
Puppet Showplace Theater has consistent programming including workshops and shows featuring local talents such as the Gottabees as well as touring groups. Shows will start up again this month on the 14th with Good Hearted Entertainment’s Word Play, a family friendly journey into the alphabet.
We have elected a tangerine ass-bugle bigot with scrawny hands, thin skin, and terrible hair to the office of the President. The theatre community has every reason to be scared that the national budget for the arts will be slashed. It will be. Certain republicans tend to disrespect experimental, avant-garde, or simply new art. If it challenges the white, straight, hetero status quo, they tend to be against it. New things frighten them with their difference. Belts will need to be tightened. For the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating your art despite this painful bullshit. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. Please keep fighting the good fight. – KD
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