by Bob Wall
TAFT STREET COFFEE -- 5/6/2005: I first saw the Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre show late last year at a show at Walter's featuring the Trachtenberg Family Slide Show and Rhonda Roberts -- a fantastic evening of non-traditional music and theater. The Bobbindoctrin group performed a searing one-act play including interactive puppets, human characters, voice-overs, recorded music, special lighting, and very little in the way of "hand holding" through the expositional maelstrom. It was spellbinding.
From an artistic perspective, the play flew in the face of typical community theater fare -- it was entertaining, yes, but it was also just as (if not more so) thought-provoking, moving, and puzzling. Images from the play dance in my head today. The set design was marvelous, the lighting suspenseful, and the content intriguing.
So, given that, when I heard that the puppet group had linked up with a non-traditional string/reed section called Two Star Symphony for a new piece called Danse Macabre, Part II: The Consummate Host, I was anxious to see if it would work. And wow, did it ever. This was the most exciting and best-executed thing I've seen on stage in years.
This ambitious work is worthy of attention regardless of your level of exposure to theater, music, or puppetry. It's enthralling. Although titled "Part II," all of the sections of this work are apparently independent, and no previous exposure is needed to follow the tale. The story line follows an inept industrialist and his dominatrix secretary who have profited from a world plague. Death, greed, power, ignorance, and conceit combined to produce a plague tale of which Camus would be proud.
Two Star Symphony provided a score that was at once simple, almost childlike, and yet haunting in a bouncy, slow-motion circus of repetition, menace, and casual ease. The music was amazingly powerful in its counterpoint, both within itself as a musical piece and with regard to the play content. Life-sized rod puppets occupied the middle of three stage areas, while above were screens that project animation, and video and below the two puppet stages were eight different smaller screens that projected shadow puppets.
Bravo to all the musicians, puppeteers, lighting and stage workers, directors, and producers for creating a fast-paced and breathtaking spectacle. Keep an eye out for the third installment. Do not miss it -- hopefully that the Bobbindoctrin crew will see fit to put all three parts together at some point.
Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre -- http://www.bobbindoctrin.org/;
Two Star Symphony -- http://twostarsymphony.org/