NY Theater Review Paulanne Simmons
If you’d like to end the summer on a note of fun and wisdom for the entire family, the good news is you have one more weekend to see The Dancing Fox: Wisdom Tales of the Middle East in the outdoor garden of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
In the five stories of The Dancing Fox, clever foxes, dim-witted fish, a vengeful snake and an assortment of foolish and occasionally generous humans teach lessons on resourcefulness, love, compassion and the ironies of life. The tales come from the traditions of Jews, Arabs, Sufi mystics and folklore of the Middle East. Ralph Lee Mettawee River Theater Company tells these tales with the aid of puppets, masks and Neal Kirkwood’s original music played by accordionist JP Schlegelmilch.
Some of the puppets are small and manipulated by hand. Others are life-size and need several puppeteers to bring them to life. All are delightfully voiced and imaginatively designed.
Ralph Lee, the designer and theater director, has done extensive research into the Middle Eastern tradition, and the five tales he discovered prove how similar are the stories in both Jewish and Arab traditions. For instance, the fox, a trickster figure, appears in three of the five stories.
The stories have been adapted for stage by Dave Hunsaker. Many of them have a special appeal to children because they are about the smaller, less powerful creatures (a fox, a rabbit) outwitting those who would take advantage of them (a snake, a biblical sea monster). But adults certainly enjoy the humor and irony in these simple but sophisticated stories.
The Dancing Fox: Wisdom Tales of the Middle East runs through Sept 14 in the outdoor garden of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at 111 Street and Amsterdam Ave, (212) 929-4777.