by: Alix Cohen
An imaginative tale splendidly performed. Grizzly fun for all ages.
“How many times have each of you been told in the past, if the walls could talk…? Well, here I am…”begins the perhaps 4 ½’ x 10’ House within which this charming horror tale unfolds. The Victorian structure, a funeral parlor/crematorium, is remembering events. “We are all museums who collect the acts and memories of those who live inside our walls…Why don’t you peel back my skin and look for yourself at what happened here?”
A light goes on in the upstairs bedroom of house owner, Mrs. Esperanza, a bedridden old woman we see only in shadow except for the mottled hand which reaches outside a curtain. Her devoted dog – a full 12” puppet, whose ears and mouth movements express a world he can’t articulate, comes when called. Also in residence are milquetoast nephew Henry in subservience to his cigar-smoking wife, Flora, who runs the business and acts as resentful nursemaid to her acquired aunt. Evil is indicated not only by sour expression, severe hair, and loud commands, but by watching Flora use pliers to extricate the gold teeth of a corpse.
Mrs. Esperanza changes her last will and testament. Instead of leaving the establishment to Henry and Flora, she’s chosen instead her two unacknowledged sons, Tony and Bruno. The boys, born when their mother was unmarried and too young, were raised in an orphanage. Now petty crooks, “naughtier than the butcher’s dogs,” they’ve come, like two skinny, bumbling Laurel and Hardy characters, to rob her house.
Flora cannot, of course, allow her due inheritance to be usurped. She poisons Mrs.Esperanza and forces poor, tearful Henry to chop off his aunt’s arm, relegating her body to the oven. Smoke pours from a chimney. The lawyer is called and seduced into signing a new Will authored by Flora. When, as usual, he kisses Mrs. Esperanza’s outstretched hand upon leaving, the lawyer finds himself holding a dismembered arm. Flora employs the already bloody ax.
All this would simply be murder were it not for the fact that Mrs. Esperana’s life force, a floating white light, enters the dog. Now upright and determined to see that her wishes are carried out, she approaches Tony and Bruno still hiding on the premises. Barks, howls and whimpers make communication difficult. Still, there are ways. What ensues is clever, funny, and finally demonic as blood flows, ash is created, and possessions occur.
Our story unspools in front of and inside the house with open windows revealing activity. When the enormous, beautifully realized set revolves, we see otherwise hidden rooms and eventually the basement crematorium. Puppets are manipulated from below. Each definite personality is described not only by appearance and voice, but also specific gestures. Possession is particularly grand to observe. Often familiar music, eerie sound effects, and evocative lighting enhance mood. Though the English language is not perfectly used, its rough edges somehow add to the unique nature of the piece.
Photo credit: Jakob Eskildsen.
From Denmark’s Sofie Krog Teater
Story, Production and Puppeteers: Sofie Krog & David Faraco
Music: Cuco Perez
Directing Consultant: Martin Toft
Dramturg: Jette Lu
A Dream Music Puppetry Program and startHERE Presentation
HERE http://here.org/ 145 Sixth Avenue
Through March 16