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Postcards from the Fringe: Blind Summit Theatre’s ‘The Table’

From "The Table," Blind Summit Theatre's show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

At Blind Summit Theatre’s The Table, showing at Pleasance Dome through August 28 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a puppet explains the basic principles of Japanese tabletop puppetry.

Pacing back and forth on the white table serving as his stage — as his entire world—the nameless puppet demonstrates, and everyone can see,  how he is operated by three puppeteers—one for head and left hand (Mark Down, who also performs the voice), one for rump and right hand (Sean Garratt), and one for the feet (Nick Barnes). All three are on stage, fully visible, dressed in unassuming black. There are no strings in Bunraku puppetry; the puppeteers’ hands directly control the puppet, in this case a simple white cloth body and cardboard head fashioned to look like an old bearded man with tired eyes (at one point the puppet screams, “I have a backstory! I used to be a box!”). The face doesn’t move: the puppet’s eyes don’t roll back and forth in the manner of marionettes, the mouth doesn’t do that horrible nutcracker thing.

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Remixing Chekhov: Theatre Movement Bazaar’s ‘Anton’s Uncles’

From left to right, Mark Skeens, Jacxon L. Ryan, Derrick Oshana, and Ernesto Cayabyab in "Anton's Uncles"

Anton’s Uncles is what its director Tina Kronis calls a “movement score.” Distilling and adding new material to Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya — a century-old play about the members of a country estate frustrated by their guests, a stuffy professor and his enthrallingly beautiful wife — Anton’s Uncles amplifies that play’s themes of hope and unsatisfied desires. Co-writers Kronis and Richard Alger strip Chekhov’s play of realism, retaining a skeletal plot and then, like decoupage, decorate it with a boisterous concoction of poetry, dance, music, and spectacle. As subtext and metaphor eclipse verisimilitude, Uncles skirts unintelligibility. But to an audience like that of the bi-annual FURY Factory Festival in San Francisco last week – an audience familiar with post-modern lexicons — Anton’s Uncles yields rich layers of exquisite wit, tragedy, and art.

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