A brilliantly naughty and witty evening of magical puppetry.
By Joel Benjamin
It’s difficult not to fall helplessly in love with Ronnie Burkett and his colorful marionette characters. His is the kind of pure theatrical magic—smart, naughty and technically adroit—that transports an audience. The extraordinary checkered lives he creates for these be-stringed bits of wood and cloth and the way he makes them live under his brilliant ministrations is entertaining, hilarious and moving in equal measure. Although the Daisy Theatre, Burkett’s little troupe populated by dozens of marionettes, is definitely not New Victory Theatre material with its sassy, frank characters who speak their minds, adults will find many knowing laughs and even a tear or two in his exquisitely detailed scenarios.
A series of barely related scenes followed one another on the tiny, but perfect stage of the Daisy Theatre, its bright front curtain decorated with colorful cartoons of the puppet characters, including little Schnitzel, an androgynous creature with a tuft of hair and odd ears. She (he?) is at first lorded over by a strongman, Franz. “What the hell am I?” asked the pathetic Schnitzel, declaring that she wants wings to escape. She returns at the end closing the show with her heartwarming charm and inner strength.
A Rat Pack-type Vegas crooner, complete with white dinner jacket and undone bowtie, sings “I Only Think of You When I Drink.” Jesus is chased off the stage by a musty old English Major General who later returns in a gown to sing the old Bea Lillie ditty, “There are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden.” A gay rabbit, Jim Bunny is shooed off the stage.
A leopard print chaise lounge is occupied by a Gloria Swanson-esque Esmé who communes with a hunky volunteer, literally walking all over him, possessing him like her very own Gulliver.
The silly old bitty, Edna from Turnip Corners, Alberta, goes on and on, her favorite phrase being, “Lord love a duck!” She says that after “sixty-three years of marital indifference” her mind still is full of memories. Edna reveals of her recipe for “dill dough,” double entendres cascading at breakneck speed. (Double entendres are a large part of Burkett’s humor.)
Rosemary Foccaccia, an aging showgirl in a red fringed dress gets an audience member to free her little band from a box at the foot of the stage so that she can shimmy and shake to “Mangia, Mangia.” When she collapses from her efforts, simply too much for her aging woodwork, audience member, Joey, is forced to administer artificial respiration. The sight of a full-sized, hunky guy, applying his lips to the tiny head of Miss Foccaccia is worth the price of admission in itself!
Burkett knows his audience—“gay men and menopausal women,” he joked—and the cultural scene, making fun of TV shows, Broadway productions and the current political environment. The show changes each time, with Burkett inspired by each audience.
Watching these marionettes come alive—you’d swear their mouths move—and listening to their wonderfully detailed stories is a great experience, not to be missed
Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes/The Daily Theatre (October 7-10, 2015)
Baryshnikov Arts Center
450 West 37th Street, between 9th & 10th Avenues
New York, NY
For ticket call 646-731-3200 or visit www.bacnyc.org
For information visit www.thedaisytheatre.org
Running time: varies between one hour 30 minutes and two hours with no intermission