Sunday, May 07, 2006

Oh No, Not That Frog Again.

Life, Review: Yesterday, Nayan and I rode our bikes down to the Sunset Hill Community club to see Frog Lake by the Thistle Theater folks. Here's a snippet from their website:

Enjoy the classic ballet Swan Lake transformed into a contemporary ballet, Frog Lake. Taddy, a young frog, is excited to be seeing her first ballet at her local pond. As the Conductor Frog enters the theater a hush falls, broken only by the sound of frog croaks and cricket chirps. On cue, fireflies flit to their respective footlights to illuminate the stage of the “Ballet de Pond”. Traditional choreography will be brought to life as the frogerinas dance to Tchaikovsky’s famous music.

I really wanted to like this, but I realized it had some fundamental problems. First, its a parody of a ballet. If you know anything about kids, it should be that they don't get irony or sarcasm, and certainly not parodies. So, you say, surely the intent is to entertain the adults, and that the puppets themselves are sufficient to keep the kids engaged. Well, if you know a bit more about kids, or atleast boys, its that the idea of "Silent" anything just doesn't work. Another problem could just be my testerone hang ups, but frankly, of all the fine arts, the one I like the least, is ballet. But atleast in real life, you can admire the physicality of the dance - but with puppet frogs very seriously leaping around in frog leotards? It could work if you embraced the stupidity, and cracked jokes about it - but alas, the "Silent" part killed that possibility. So, every time the main frog would come on stage, a cackle of 3 year olds would start shouting, "Oh no! Not that guuuuuy again." The theatre director, opens the show by admonishing the kids for yapping, and pleads for the mothers to assist. So, innevitably, the play was spent w/ mom's in a tizzy, trying to keep their bored kids engaged.

Just to keep up the bashing, I also, was utterly unimpressed with the set design - only a couple scene changes! The one thing that kept it from being a disaster, is that the puppets were fairly well done. This, from the Thistle Theater folks, who usually skimp on both set design and puppets. The Peter Rabbit puppets w/ the exception of the farmer, were something out of Wal-Mart, but alas, atleast he spoke.

Why, you might ask, am I harshing on the artistic merit of kids puppets? Well, this IS Seattle, where we not only have the good fortune of having puppet options, but most of the kids puppet theater is simply amazingly well done. The North West Puppet Theatre's renditions of both Babar and Madelaine were just beautiful and engaging - the kids and adults were enthralled; the set changes continuously and in a fairly complex manner. There's also this local couple that does a Spanglish version of a Mexican burrito guy that is by far the best puppet production I've seen with stunning hand painted (like by a real artist, and a good one at that) scenery, and the young couple are just amazing performers.

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