The Paper Hat Game, created and directed by Torry Bend, captures Scotty Iseri’s disillusion in the great world of the City.
What elapses in fifty minutes is a skilled motion study, tracing the live hours and movement of the puppet, Scotty Iseri. The buildings, layered in the small frame of a toy theater, are astonishingly well constructed and painted. In fact, the best part of the show is seeing how scenic backgrounds, documentary video imaging, and puppetry work together.
Scotty reaches out to people on the subway, giving them paper hats. Voice-over explains that Scotty is the “paper hat guy.” The hats bring a feeling of togetherness. Puppeteers Angela Olson, Steve Ackerman, Yoko Myoi, Drina Dunlap, and Alex Young move fold paper, manipulate stick figures, and shift the scenes by moving intricate backgrounds.
Eventually, the “paper hat guy,” feels overtaken by the City. The artistic team does a fine job conveying this emotion with gestures from the puppet and video. While following Scotty jumping through the space was comical, it was also upsetting. Video Designer Raquel Salvatella de Prada believes in a clear, straightforward documentary style, and it’s refreshing to see the real people onscreen after so much focus on the puppet theater. Colbert Davis and Matt Hubbs create an even soundscape that underscores the drama.
We count on downtown theater to have variety, rhythm, and texture. What was sadly missing in this show was a dimensional script, filled with bold changes over time. Scotty’s loss, mostly revealed in the last third of the play, doesn’t feel profound. While some still frames, lighting windows inside the larger New York City, leave audience members with some powerful images, stronger thematic content feels unexplored.
The Paper Hat Game, part of 3-Legged Dog’s Artist Residency Program, is playing until July 17 at 3LD Art and Technology Center, 80 Greenwich Street, at Rector, in downtown Manhattan. Tickets are available by calling Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006 or by visiting www.3ldnyc.org.