As theatrical spectacles go, Redmoon Theater and director Frank Maugeri proved that smaller can be better with 2005’s “The Cabinet,” a puppet adaptation of a black-and-white horror film. Redmoon’s normally expansive ambitions were scaled down into something spare and compact, and it was by far one of the best shows of the year. Maugeri is at it again, this time pairing with local playwright and novelist Joe Meno, who has contributed a thin story about a young girl, a professional wrestler with a heart of gold, and their battle against a bird thief who steels the feathered beasts and sticks them in cuckoo clocks. The production is not as impressive as “The Cabinet”—conceptually, the one-hour puppet show feels less of a piece, and pacing is deliberate to a fault—but the intricate design work is worth checking out. There are many witty touches—a firefighter’s brain filled with images of drunken kitties stuck in trees; or a rat-a-tat-tat wrestling announcer who speaks out of the side of his mouth. Too often, the power of these images is diminished by the narration, provided by Lindsey Noel Whiting, a talented actress who has been directed to perform in an empathetic style I’m tempted to call “story hour at the local library.” There is something cloying and insistently earnest about the performance—and therefore the entire production—that undercuts the deadpan, understated design of the puppets (from Kass Copeland). Maugeri is going for something both retro and hi-tech here, and the Redmoon space does have the feel of an old-fashioned parlor with a puppet theater at its hearth. As the story plays out, a video camera is trained on the action, and high above the stage you can see the puppets projected on a screen, larger than life. It is a worthy experiment, mixing Victorian-era toy theater with cinematic techniques, but the effect is distancing. Ironically, the close-ups are not compelling; the camera is unable to adequately track movement, and you miss the context and details of the set itself, designed by Tracy Otwell and a team of others. A spectacle in miniature, perhaps, only really works when you see it in miniature. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.