Finally, I managed to see a show opening weekend! Good for me.
“little world” is part puppet show, part kids’ show, and part very adult tragedy. Here’s the blurb from the Seattle U website:
A woman creates and retreats to a little world of her own… a safe place where she can hide from all that is cruel. But this new world conjures up characters who emerge playfully, yet ultimately confront and challenge her. Inspired by and conceived through the process of grief, little world employs a reverse theatre-making method where design and puppets were created first followed by script and character development.
Something not mentioned, that I found very interesting, was how the show felt very specific to women of the baby-boomer generation. The lead actress is older, as are 2 of the 3 puppeteers. And the underlying narrative — only hinted at through the lead’s interactions with various puppets — was of a mother lost in grief for her dead son. Consequently, she develops a callous, rude, gruff outer shell to protect her from the painful world around her, and eventually retreats into her head to replay the pain of getting older and saggy-er, grumpier, whinier … all to hide her deep, real sadness.
The puppets were beautiful, especially the Sad Boy, the larger-than-life puppet of her son, and the fire sprites (those were my favorite). A lot of time was spent with Les Monsieurs Trois, which, for an hour-long show, means other potential plot was not developed. I wish more time had been devoted to the fire sprites, because they represent the lead’s burning self-hatred, but it almost seemed like the subject was mentioned because it was necessary, then glossed over because it is too hard to bear in front of other people. Considering the show deals with a difficult topic, I think the women involved could have dealt with the subject truthfully and tactfully. Unfortunately they chose not to.
The Sad Boy was a truly wonderful part of the show. The puppeteer’s range of motion with such a small puppet, her attention to his cartoon-like childish physicality, was spot-on, and the emotions he inspires in the lead were what the show is all about.
The show also ended a bit abruptly. I loved emotionally where it faded out, but the process just seemed to be over all of a sudden, and everyone left. Since it is a show about the grieving process, I understand that there is no way to wrap that up, happily or not. It’s a constant process, and that was hinted at, but the abruptness did not ring true with the tone of the rest of the show. It didn’t feel like it was decided that the process was over for the day as part of the plot; it seemed more like the production could only run for an hour and, as they created the show, they had to end it at about this point.
That said, this show is brand-new, highly-creative work that deals with subjects almost never dealt with in any form of art, and I highly recommend everyone go see it. The leading lady is a powerful actress, the puppets are beautiful, and the topics are engaging.