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A CurtainUp Review
Great Small Works at Los Kabayitos

by David Lipfert

Overview of The International Puppet Festival '98, Schedule of Events and Links to Other Shows

Operating out of their permanent theater at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, the company has been performing a Brecht series the past year in addition to their usual programs for kids. For the Puppet Festival, they have put together a three-part show entitled Toy Theater.

Terror as Usual is a very close-to-home political satire. The building the company operates out of is a former public school that has come all too close to being sold off in the mayor's privatization program. (Their theater space is the former school principal's office.) Irony is heaped upon irony as cutouts of skyscrapers are shunted on and off the toy stage. Voiceovers allude to a "state of emergency" because real estate developers can't make enough money. The mayor comes in for his deserved share of scorn-always humorous, of course.

Even I Must Understand recounts the first experiences of Bertold Brecht in southern California via his diary entries replete with Brechtian sarcasm. Toy theater seems to make Brecht's wicked barbs even more pointed. Cultural conflict reaches the boiling point at a rehearsal directed by Brecht when an actor challenges him with: "What's my motivation?"

Sandwiched between is The Iliad, told with marvelous steel puppets created by puppeteer Roberto Rossi. The tone is mock solemn, with larger-than-life warriors slugging it out in the most famous siege of all time. Particularly good are the chariot entrances. Incidentally, it's a great way to brush up on your Homer.

At just around two hours, the show is of generous length. As a curtain raiser, John Bell narrates the history of toy theater in the adjacent gallery to the accompaniment of a small band plus toy piano. Several private collectors have generously lent vintage miniature sets for the occasion. On sale are kits to construct your own toy theater.

The final week of the Puppet Festival brings Dr. Kronopolis and the Timekeeper Chronicles to Los Kabayitos. Science fiction is the basis for this offering listed for ages 10 and up. Kids' matinees last around an hour. A 1905 Broadway spectacle called Yankee Circus on Mars is paired with Our Kitchen, all about making pancakes.

Los Kabayitos Puppet Theater/Great Small Works
Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center
107 Suffolk Street (between Rivington and Delancey)
Great Small Works - through 9/20
Dr. Kronopolis - 9/24-9/27
Kids' Theater - weekends of 9/12-13 and 9/19-20
Festival Hotline: (212) 279-4200

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Overview of The International Puppet Festival '98, Schedule of Events and Links to Other Shows

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© Elyse Sommer, September 1998