A World Premiere.
Written & Directed by Doug Hara.
Projection Design by Mike Tutaj.
Puppet Design by Blair Thomas.
At Lookingglass Theatre, Chicago.
For the love of storytelling.
Lookingglass Theatre sure knows how to mount a little show – a two-hander actually into a complex superbly staged piece of emotional storytelling. Credit playwright/director Doug Hara’s love of the basic nature of theatre-that is storytelling into a captivating 85 minutes of stage craft. This two person show is called (by the playwright0 ” A love story…and a murder mystery…and a science-fiction fantasy…and a fairy tale adventure.” Hara also sees it as a philosophical exploration of what it means to be “alive.” This short yet complex work is a technical masterpiece with Mike Tutaj’s terrific silhouette, shadow and figure video projections from Manual Cinema, Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman’s amazing sounds and score, Amanda Herrmann’s appropriate props, Blair Thomas’s puppets, and John Musial’s scenery to create a fantastical drama about the power of stories—their source, their role and why we tell them, and what happens when the stories become corrupted or stop being told.
This engaging show features the love story of a dedicated storyteller (Mr. Pennyworth -Samuel Taylor) and his mate, Mrs. Pennyworth – Lindsey Noel Whiting). These folks share love for each other and love for storytelling. Whiting breaks the fourth wall during the opening letting us in that this show has been told many times mostly the same as she’s present tonight. her charm and warmth easily wins us to her.
Once we see Taylor’s storytelling cart and his dedication to find and preserving, we understand why Whiting would want to be with him. After being able to appreciate many old fairy tales and children’s stories, they are told that there is major problem that threatens many classic stories: The Big Bad Wolf – the villain from countless fairy tales is gone! Is is dead or just missing. That is the mystery that the Pennyworth’s are determined to solve.
They split-up as they each move to solve this problem. They get help from the shadow puppets, the life-like puppets and the stunning visuals and eerie sounds that enhance the imaginative adventures both real folks need in order to solve the mystery of the Wolf. Along the way, we meet several fairy tale chanters including Little Red Ridding Hood and Norse mythology figures. We realize that in these fairy tales the evil characters are as needed as good ones that tech a moral and both are needed to make the story meaningful. We witness the power of these stories to make us laugh, to think, and to teach us to be human.
As theatre, Mr. &Mrs. Pennyworth is a wonderful, often whimsical, theatrical experience that stimulants our imaginations as we are sympathetic to both the fairy tale folks and the Pennyworths. The extraordinary stage graft greatly enhances the play. Both Taylor and Whiting were solid but the tech elements also contribute much to world created on Michigan Avenue at Lookingglass Theatre. This is a gem that will quickly become a theatre class by Lookingglass Theatre. Don’t miss it!
At Lookingglass Theatre, 821 North Michigan, (312)337-0665, lookingglasstheatre.org, $20-$80. Through February 19, running time is 85 minutes without intermission.