It’s not really a nostalgic childhood memory unless it’s summer, is it? Cynthia VonOrthal’s new full-length puppet show places us in the summer of 1971, when children still played in the street and you put new clothes on layaway at Sears just long enough before they go out of fashion. The Martini and Blahute families have been friends as long as they’ve lived next to each other, but this rose-colored slice-of-life becomes threatened when rumors begin to spread that Harm Martini has been fooling around on Gay. Aside from that, not much actually happens, and the threadbare plot moves along mostly due to the captivating puppet work. The puppeteers really disappear behind their puppets, which end up displaying a disarming humanity. The stage and script often get cluttered with too much business, and the play is a little too preoccupied with establishing the culture of the era with little payoff. It’s just a mismatch of a well-trod story and ingenious stagecraft. (Neal Ryan Shaw)
VonOrthal Puppets at the Raven Theatre West Stage, 6157 North Clark, (773)878-8337. Through December 19.