The unsmiling audience walked down the narrow gray corridor to the back-stage entrance of The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, cautioned to be silent as the performance began when the first member entered the set stage. Circled around seven 24” industrial floor fans the audience watched in rapt attention as the mime, dressed in a long blue sea coat and watch cap, took two pink plastic grocery bags, cut and taped them, and laid the reconstructed bag in the center of the circle. He then thoughtfully circled the fans, turning each on, and settled into his seat behind a control board. Stravinsky’s L’apres-Midi D’un Foehn lyrically pulses the opening bars. The bag begins to move, like a faun just born. The tempo increases; the bag seductively pulses and stretches. Suddenly it is magically flying with memorable beauty to the music and the controlling air currents. We can’t look away.
Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival Hosts a Work that Aims to to Destroy Plastic
Thus begins the end of the plastic bag. How beautiful it is, clean, useful, practical, tempting to keep. Then the frenzy begins with more and more bags flying into the vortex of air. The music is strident and becomes intrusive and unpleasant. The bags attack the mime who walks among them. In turn, he begins to rip and tear at them until all that is left is a pile of trash. Black out.
Powerful Wordless Message
Creator Phia Menard triumph of wordless communication about plastic trash is ephemeral. Plastic is not. The audience hears her loud and clear and leaves with low murmers of comment. Likely they will never see a plastic bag the same again. The mime, Jean-Louis Ouvrard, cast his own spell of quiet dignity descending into destructive rage.
Is it puppetry? In this reviewer’s opinion, no. It’s physical theater. Is it memorable and worthy? Yes. It would be interesting to challenge a group of aerodynamics engineering students to create a semblance of this performance.
Artistic Director and Creator: Phia Menard
Performer: Jane-Luis Ouvrard
Composer: Ivan Roussel
For more information on upcoming Chicago International Puppet Festival read 2019 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival PREVIEW
Photos courtesy of Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival 2019
Reviewer Ann Boland is committed to Chicago theater. Involved in the audience since the early 80’s, she’s witnessed firsthand the rise of our theater scene, our exceptional local talent, and the vigor of each new generation. Ann handles public relations for authors and works on programs to help seniors with neurological movement disorders. Please visit her website for more information.
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