The All-Puppet Player constantly, and masterfully, balance on a city sidewalk chalk line between coming across as completely amateurish and making it all feel planned.
There is a delightful chaos in all of it, too.
This small band of comedians-come-puppeteers have found a formula that works, as they take well-known Hollywood favorites and spend an hour or so skewering and roasting them like browning pigs over a cook-out fire.
I describe them to my friends as a group of improv players who have found a way out of obscurity by attaching the top halves of puppets to their fists, raised in comedic protest against ever being pigeon-holed.
Well, actually, I just say “an improv group with puppets,” but I liked the sound of what I wrote. So, it stays.
I was introduced to the All Puppet Players by a long-time friend who joined the board in support of their unique talents. We saw their rendition of Jaws which was as funny as you might think it is absurd.
Not only did the puppeteers create a performance of Jaws that was engaging in its own right, with relevant social and political commentary, but they also played up their threadbare staging and unintentional gaffes to applause and laughter.
I immediately bought four tickets to December 8th’s Christmas performance of Die Hard, A Christmas Story, which was half parody, half Dickensian fable. I took whomever would believe me that this is the funniest affair I’ve seen in a ten years.
In Jaws these players were just as comfortable making fun of their cardboard, elementary school play production value “ocean waves” as they were playing out their characters as if they were real.
So, what social and political commentary is relevant to Jaws? I can’t tell you. I can’t remember. I was laughing too hard. I just remember thinking, “how did they tie this in to that?”
What I can remember is a moment when one puppeteer could not find his way off stage, through black curtains behind the action, saying “how do I get out? how do I get out?”
For the rest of the first act, the other puppeteers took well-place and hilarious jabs to remind the first puppeteers of his transgression. At one point a fish made its way across the aforementioned cardboard waves, past two main characters, to begin asking the audience once it reached stage-left, “how do I get out?”
Sounds like one of those things that’s only funny if you are there to see it? I realize that now, as I type this. So, go see it. Don’t believe me.
Oh, and I don’t want to fail to mention. This stuff is not for kids. Definitely don’t take them thinking you are gonna get a review of happy, furry, Fozzy Bear-types singing songs about rainbow connections, and whatnot.
Their next performance will be their first original work, Waiting for Henson.
I’ll be getting my tickets soon. I’m intrigued to see if they can do as well with original content as they do with parodies. But, I’m confident since their scripting of the numerous famous stories they’ve done over the last six years take them well away from the original writing.
The audiences are confident, too. The All Puppet Players camp at the small theater at the base of the Viad Building, which I think holds about 200 people. Regardless, they were sold out for the rest of the month by December 8th. Clearly, thousands of people are getting the message from their friends about this group.
Pass it on, with all apologies to Kermit.