Monday, May 17, 2010

Being Felt Up - Stuffed and Unstrung - Theatre Review

Stuffed and Unstrung - Henson Alternative at Union Square Theatre - Off-Broadway, New York, NY - **** (out of 5 stars)
Created by Brian Henson and Patrick Bristow, Directed by Patrick Bristow

So Avenue Q has become so successful on stage, that it was only time that The Henson Company themselves reaped some of the reward Avenue Q has found on stage using the whole muppets look Henson created. Now, Henson Alternative (to make sure the kiddies don't get to see this) has created Stuffed and Unstrung, Henson's own adults only show.

Stuffed and Unstrung is, as described, really two shows in one. A camera is set up in the centre of the stage that films the puppets and the live feed is shown on two large screens as we would see on one of Henson's more famous (and kid friendly) shows. The other half is to actually watch the stage with the actors performing underneath the puppets. Oh, and did I mention it's all improved? Yes, it's basically improv with muppets, and like all improv, sometimes jokes don't land, but here, even when you're not laughing, you can watch the amazing multitasking the puppeteers are doing.

But while I'm not a huge fan of improv, the amazingly talented mulitasking performers landed more jokes than not, and I found most of the skits painfully hilarious, if not offensively funny. And of course, half the fun is watching our beloved muppets say very bad things. I hadn't laughed like that in a LONG time. Maybe it's because I went to Saturday's late show (it starts at 11pm), and the audience was already liquored up, but everyone, including the cast, seemed to be having a good time. I was nicely sober and still loved it. I guess the show really depends on the night but the cast was pretty quick witted this past weekend.

The cast seems to be rotating (based on the names listed on the website and the notes of Current Cast) with Allan Trautman, Victor Yerrid, Colleen Smith, Anthony Asbury, Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, Brian Clark as the 6 puppeteers for my late night performance, and co-creator Patrick Bristow (one of those character actors you've seen on every TV show) as the hilarious host that keeps things in order and throws in a few wrenches into the cast to create some funny disorder. Bristow takes audience suggestions for each skit, and gives some rules to change up each skit (and also rejects some audience ideas if they had been recently done in previous shows).

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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