Review: Trouble Puppet Theatre’s “The Head”

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Review: Trouble Puppet Theatre’s “The Head”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 1, 2013

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 1, 2013

Just in time for the Halloween season, Trouble Puppet Theater Company brings us a strange and slightly creepy creation from inside the head of artistic director Connor Hopkins, which, in turn, takes us on a turbulent journey through the average mind’s inner demons.

Written, directed, and designed by Hopkins, “The Head,” playing now through Oct 12 at Salvage Vanguard, envisions a mechanic at the controls of all our daily functions – living inside our heads and guiding us through life’s challenges.

A puppet turned puppet-master, The Mechanic has to run damage control on both his human’s free will and the panoply of inner demons escaping from the depths of The Man’s psyche.

Walking into the space, audiences encounter an enormous and unsettling sculpture of a humanoid head – with purple skin and glowing eyes. The speakers overhead emit ominous background noises (courtesy of the talented sound designer, K. Eliot Haynes) and the sound of heavy breathing.

When the performance begins and the head is carted away, we are treated to a visually stunning array of steam punk, science fiction set pieces and yet another collection of playfully crafted puppets. However, by filling the space with fantastical gadgets and gizmos, the set design ultimately inhibits the pacing of the production.

Because each of the lovely three-foot tall puppets requires two or three puppeteers to operate, the characters can’t navigate the space with any alacrity. So as much as we might enjoy watching The Mechanic bang around on the various machines that regulate The Man’s emotional (and usually self-destructive) responses, the amount of time it takes to move around the space inevitably just slows things down.

The show never gets boring, per se, but it also doesn’t maintain a consistent level of energy in spite of the steadfast efforts of the nine puppeteers.

And although the plot doesn’t have a lot of depth and suffers from a bit too much chaos, the manifestations of the man’s inner demons are generally pretty delightful. The motley crowd emerges in the form of wacky amalgams – such as a perverted and mustachioed Velociraptor, a foul-mouthed and maliciously defecating chicken, and a four-armed Hitler-esque dandy.

So the show is funny and bizarre even if the over-abundance of f-bombs gets rather trying by the end and the story is sadly lackluster.

“The Head” continues 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 12th. Tickets $10-$20. Salvage Vanguard Theatre, 2803 Manor Road. www.troublepuppet.com

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