Review: Humans and Objects in Play by Neo-Futurists as the Chicago International Puppet Festival Continues

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Andersonville’s Neo Futurarium is the kind of hole-in-the-wall, maze of creative space that has made this city famous as a cultural destination, so it’s kind of wonderful that the old ballroom at the top of the stairs is a featured venue for the 4th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. The set of improvisers, movers and theater artists put their signature Infinite-Key format of 30 plays in 60 minutes in an entertaining evening of object theater aligned with the Puppet Festival, an aptly named show I protest, or 30 short puppet games.

The show starts with a preamble in the antechamber of the Neo-Futurarium with two masterful and almost magical works of projection and shadow puppets by Myra Su: “Inked” where she and her alter ego play with a landscape painted in brush (you can actually buy parts of the scrolling creation that’s made every night in the lobby) and “String of Echoes”, an excerpt from a larger work on canned seafood and the sea, which is ends with perfect lit little boats literally sailing overhead and out of the gate. Su is one of the masterminds behind Manual Cinema’s amazing work. (If you haven’t seen them yet, you need to put Manual Cinema on your must-see list.)

Photo by Cody Nieset.

After Su’s plays, the audience is woken up and taken to the main space and directed to near-chaos: you have to shout a number between 1 and 30 which corresponds to a short “room”. Some of the pieces are more dada-esque performance art, like Bread or Puppet (inside puppet joke), where a cast member asks the audience, Bread??? Puppet??? Until someone answers and is done. Latte Art consists of a Latte falling on a paper and held in the air. There are compelling and moving tracks such as #10 on Mars Rover Opportunity Silence, and the namesake I protest where each actor presents an object that has meaning for him and tells this story. The night I attended, the cast managed to pass 29.75 of the plays before the darkroom clock on the wall chimed and brought the show to an abrupt end. Ensemble members Neil, Jasmine, Dan, Trent, Connor and Annie are versatile and revealing performers who bring vulnerability and pathos to their quick humor and full body and soul participation in the process. This show will warm you up.

I protest rooms Friday and Saturday January 28-29, at 10:30 p.m., and Sunday 30 January, at 7 p.m.at the Neo Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland. Tickets are $30 ($20 for students). The infinite key will continue after the puppet festival ends so you can see new plays in the same format every weekend.

the 4th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, through January 30, transforms Chicago into the Puppetry Capital of the World, presenting more than 100 performances of more than 20 national and local shows and events at venues across the city. Visit the website to see the full program and buy tickets. Follow the festival on Facebook, instagramWhere Twitterhashtag #ChiPuppetFest, for the latest updates.

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