Theater Review: Puppets achieve touching intimacy
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | January 26,2014
Jim Lowe / Staff photo
The lady of “Eye of the Storm” is guided by Zak Grace in the Spybird Theater production Friday at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre.
Puppet theater is for kids — or is it?
Spybird Theater’s “Eye of the Storm,” presented Friday and Saturday at Paramount Theatre’s Black Box, as well as Rutland High School on Friday, offered a universal tale, beautifully told using three forms of puppetry and myriad art forms.
Sponsored by Vermont Actors’ Repertory Theatre, the intimate performance was not only charming; it was touching.
“Eye of the Storm” is a tale of a lonely woman whose son has gone off to sea. This story, abstract enough for different interpretations but not so much as to be confusing, reflects her inner torments and joy at her son’s life and her own, even through the tumult of a storm. In Spybird Theater’s capable and imaginative hands, it becomes a very personal story ideal for adults and teens.
The woman is a beautiful, nearly life-size puppet who was operated by a most visible operator. Her life is spiced up by hand puppets in an on-stage theater that take on a commedia dell’arte role. Asian shadow puppetry is used for flashbacks as well as portraying action in distant places. It’s a striking, if not always polished, mix.
Spybird Theater is Jana Zeller and Zak Grace. Zeller, daughter of the founders of Putney’s famed Sandglass Theater, is technically the creator of the show, though the final result is clearly a collaboration. Grace, interestingly a onetime theater student of VART’s Peter Marsh at Mill River Union High School, is a sculptor who, in addition to squiring the woman puppet around, builds puppets.
Another big part of “Eye of the Storm” was the original music by Anna Patton. The daughter of renowned Vermont bluegrass musician Will Patton, she crafted an acoustic multi-instrumental soundtrack that becomes another important character in the show. It successfully underscored the feelings of the characters compellingly.
Spybird Theater’s work Friday wasn’t always polished but, with imagination its greatest quality, it drew the audience in with its intimate humanity — including plenty of humor. This is a young company to watch.
Vermont Actors’ Repertory Theatre
Vermont Actors’ Repertory Theatre will present “Tuesdays with Morrie” from Feb. 26 to March 8 at the Paramount Theare in Rutland. For information, go online to actorsrepvt.org. For more information about Spybird Theater, go online to www.spybirdtheater.com.