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Saturday, October 27, 2012

"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Tears of Joy Theatre

Tears of Joy Theater is best known for their family-friendly puppet shows, but they have also not been afraid to delve into more disturbing subjects from time to time. The first of these darker shows that I saw was "The Long Christmas Ride Home" at Theatre Vertigo a few years ago--that show explored many disquieting subjects, but there was also something deeply un-nerving about an actor manipulating a puppet made to look like himself......  "The Long Christmas Ride Home" taught me that puppets need not be confined to children's entertainment, they can be truly frightening.... It was with this in mind that I jumped at the chance to see Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" get the Tears of Joy treatment, and I wasn't disappointed, to say the least.

This was a fantastic show, and the puppetry was phenomenal. The bulk of the play features only two characters, Adam (David Clemmer), the human student of Herr Gossvetter, a renowned philosopher, cantankerous old man, and puppet, though it doesn't take long for the audience to forget the latter fact. The puppeteers, (Jon Plueard, Bill Holznagel, Jason Miranda) are shrouded in black from head to toe, making them look a bit like apparitions, this is especially effective in a nightmare sequence.

Unfortunately, I became aware of the production rather late, and it closes tonight, but if you can make it, it will certainly put you in the mood for Halloween, and it appears that the show might be an annual event, though I may have misheard an answer during the Q&A regarding sadness as the show nears closing, but I think they intimated that they took solace in knowing it would be back in a year.... Oh, and the Q&A was with the puppet, and the improvisational skills of the puppeteers were remarkable. They gave a brief explanation of the workings of the puppet, and then opened it up for questions, most of which were light-hearted... One person asked if the old man could head-bang, and the otherwise stodgy Herr Gossvetter obliged. So, I thought I'd ask who Herr Gossevetter wanted to win in the upcoming election, and very quickly he answered "Taft", and even made an excuse for any discrepancy in the timeline by noting that he was a philosopher, not a historian... To summarize, you get an inspired retelling of a classic dark tale, a splash of improv comedy, and a scene of puppet dismemberment, all in one show. I suspect you wont find that anywhere else.....  

(Showing tonight at Lincoln Hall Studio Theatre, beware at least one ticketing site erroneously says The Winningstad....)

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