Puppet Theatre may be a major draw in places like Prague and Amsterdam, but in the U.S. it's often relegated to children's theatre and special festivals. However, with the explosion of new Off-Off-Broadway performance spaces and companies, not to mention the success of The Lion King, puppet theatre is becoming a visible genre in New York, from the Cosmic Bicycle Troupe to various companies that performed in this summer's NY International Fringe Fest.
Now four puppet pieces have come to PS 122 within a month's time.
First up is The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare, a piece adapted from a 1908 novel by G.K. Chesterton. A great anarchist conspiracy threatens Europe, so police pose as anarchists in the hopes of saving the world. Created in installments at PS 122's "Spaghetti Dinner Series," Thursday is a project by the Great Small Works Company: John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Stephen Kaplin, Jenny Romaine, Roberto Rossi and Mark Sussman. This "life-sized toy theatre" piece, employing masks and shadow projections, runs Dec. 26-Jan. 4.
Founded in 1995, Great Small Works draws on folk, avant-garde and popular theatre traditions to address contemporary issues. Past shows include Toy Theatre Of Terror As Usual and A History Of Apizza In New Haven.
Imagine a story of poltergeists and paranormal activity told entirely through two objects: newspapers and clear packing tape. That's the technique of London's Improbable Theatre, led by Phelim McDermott and animated by Steve Tiplady. 70 Hill Lane is based, loosely, on McDermott's own paranormal experiences at age 15.
With Never Been Anywhere, Eric Bass & Sandglass Theatre take a metaphorical look at life in rural Vermont. The title is essentially a non dirty double-entendre, referring to Vermont residents who are proud to be rural homebodies, and those who feel stuck in an isolated community. The piece adapts two stories by VT author Castle Freeman, Jr., and runs Jan. 8-12. Bass founded Sandglass Theatre in Munich in 1982.
For "puppetry that pushes the envelope," there's The Elementals troupe, with their "low-tech sorcery and rapid-fire surrealism." With Clone Squad, the Elementals promise "millennial mischief, ritual sacrifice and vegetable intelligence," Jan. 22-31.
For tickets and information on shows at Performance Space 122, 150 1st Ave., call (212) 477-5288.
-- By David Lefkowitz