Monday, April 13, 2015

When Animals Were People—Tears of Joy Theatre—SE Portland

A Walk on the Wild Side

This play with puppets is based on stories from the Huichol Cultural in Mexico and from The Lazy Bee by Horacio Quiroga and adapted for the stage by Omar Vargas and Nancy Aldrich (TOJ’s Artistic Director) and directed by Aldrich.  It plays at the Imago Theatre space, 17 SE 8th Ave., and runs until April 19th.  For more information, go to their site at www.tojt.org or call 503-248-0557.

The approximately hour long presentation is actually two short plays.  The first one is The Lazy Bee and the second one is the title piece, which is a bit of a misnomer, as it should be titled something like When Animals Talked or Spoke, as a reference to people is not part of the actual story.  A side note, there is a Christmas story about animals getting the use of human speech on Christ’s birth so they could celebrate His arrival.  But all the animals did was bicker among themselves so, because of that, the gift was taken back and animals resumed their normal ways of communicating.  Possible fodder for a TOJ production?

A bee is usually pictured as an industrious creature but there is always one that is a slacker and doesn’t pull his share.  In this case, he is warned by the elders that there are consequences for not doing his job of bringing nectar to the hive but he ignores them.  So, as a punishment, he is not allowed back into the warm hive for food and shelter.  Forced to spend the night in the unfriendly wilderness he meets a snake who…well, you’ll have to see the show, won’t you, to see how it all turns out.

The title story involves a turtle who appears to be able to bring rain when he chooses.  He is also an accommodating fellow and shares his food and rain puddles with his buddies, the vulture and the squirrel, as long as they are able to add to the stew with extra morsels of venison, potatoes, etc.  But soon he meets a stray wolf who promises corn for the pot if they will share with him.  But Mr. Lobo has other ideas of what he wants to dine on and it’s not what’s in the stew but the guests.  Again, you will have to see it to find out the outcome.

The stories will be easily enjoyed by children but the magic is not so much in the fables but in the presenters of them.  The puppets (designer, Jason Miranda) are absolutely amazing.  I especially like the snake in the title show.  And the puppeteers are extremely talented, not only in working the puppets (a demonstration is given at the end of the show) but with just two ladies (Carrie Anne Huneycutt and Sara Fay Goldman) doing all eight characters with appropriate voice characterizations!  They are true artists, as well as the designer.  And Aldrich has created a fun, informative and magical show for the whole family!
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I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis send you.