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|A CurtainUp Review
The End of theWorld
To see Roman Paska's The End of the World is a mesmerizing experience -- at times funny, at times frightening and, eventually, upbeat. Is it theater? It is -- if you're willing to park your preconceived notions at the door of the Unicorn and enter into Paska's hypnotic landscape of the imagination.
The puppet master stands on a darkened stage in front of a stage-within-the-stage shoulder-high table scattered with found objects. He gently manipulates his very realistic looking wood and clay rod puppets, lovingly dressing and undressing them in finely detailed outfits that include a variety of headdresses. The puppets have clown personae. Their bald heads give them a look-alike quality which suggests that what we have here is really the dual personality split into two physical versions of the same clown. The subject of their eerie travels on and off the stage is nothing less than the search for the meaning and possibility of survival. A video camera projects and magnifies these toy-sized creatures onto a screen at the rear of the stage. A bell and titles at the top of the screen signal the next phase of the journey on which Paska and his clowns have embarked. Paska besides manipulating the puppets, maintains a running muttered dialogue and in one truly magical segment uses his fingers as a living creature hatched from one of the found objects, an egg.
The puppetry is entrancing, the music by Richard Termini a hypnotic counterpoint to the pupeteer's dialogue. If all this sounds like a puppet occupied Twilight Zone with a fairy-tale happy ending, it is. Above all it is a beautiful fantasia. The piece has some of the feeling of Ravel's Bolero which brings me to the downside of this production. Unlike Ravel's famous piece, the repetition here eventually becomes somewhat wearying. A fifteen minute cut from the intermissionless 75 minutes would make one less anxious for a quicker ending of this otherwise fascinating world without end. .
Theater goers familiar with Lyn Austin's Music-Theatre Group, long a presence in this neighborhood, will recognize what a fine fit Paska's puppet play is with that organization's concept of theater dedicated to crossing tradional theatrical boundaries. And with the Berkshire Theatre Festival's dedication to using the Unicorn's stage as a showcase for ground breaking productions, this co-venture between the two organizations is equally made-to-order Since this is a one-week run, readers have only three days to test their own theatrical adventurousness.
Editor's Note: Since this is clearly not a kiddie show, at least not for the pre-school and early elementary school set, we suggest parents and grandparents investigate the latest BTF children's show -- Mr. A's Amazing Maze Plays by Alan Ayckbourn, which will move from the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield to the Unicorn from 8/14 to 8/28.