Between the Mysts
by Gilgamesh Theatre Group
Suzanne von Eck, Artistic Director
New York, NY
October 29, 1999
reviewed by Donald Devet
I was tricked by the advertising. The slick promotional postcard advertised "Puppets by Drama of Works." When I called for reservations I asked about the puppets. "Yes, there are twelve puppets in the show," the pleasant voice assured me. I understood it wasnít going to be a "puppet show" but actors with puppets. Great. I always look forward to seeing a show in which the director knows when to portray characters with humans and when to use puppets. Ralph Leeís Psyche is a perfect example. But Between the Mysts is a different story.
Morgan le Fay, King Arthur's evil sister, provides the play's central focus. Her fabled exploits are dramatized by thirteen actors who vigorously romp in a Comedia del Arte style around the cavernous church/theater space. But most of the play's text is in the form of expository narration that seems to come straight from a textbook. There is so much information to absorb that I felt I was having to cram for a test. But I was there to see the puppets, not bone up on Morgan le Fay.
Gretchen Van Lente and David Michael Friend who recently created Doubting Dorothy, have designed and built twelve large rod puppets representing various Knights of the Round Table. Unfortunately the puppets are not treated as real characters but more like salt and pepper shakers-- given a good shake every now and then in order to spice up the story.
The actors seem to have little or no idea of how to bring the inanimate to life. And that's too bad because Drama of Works' puppets with detailed costumes of contrasting textures are beautifully designed. But in the hands of the inexperienced the puppets come across as cumbersome and clumsy. Near the end of the show all twelve puppets are ceremoniously laid to rest side by side on a long sweep of fabric. Their lifeless bodies silently cry out for a show in which they can truly come to life.
Copyright © 1999 Donald Devet