Atlanta, March 11, 2011 – Beau Brown, one of the nations rising masters of puppetry, presented another of his The Puckin’ Fuppet Shows at the Basement Theater in Atlanta to a packed house. The Puckin’ Fuppet Show is a monthly “puppet slam,” that Brown describes as a “release valve for puppeteers who spend their days at libraries doing Winnie The Pooh“. Not that there is anything wrong with children’s puppetry…it’s just kind of safe.
The Puckin’ Fuppet Show is far from safe. To begin with…say the title three times without making it an obscenity. Moreover, the acts are not safe.
The first act on the stage were puppet cell phones trapped in a junk drawer. Performed by John Craven and Chip Boyes, the act compared the junk draw to a prison, and ended with the innocent new phone getting an older phone’s antenna in his microSD slot. Cellphone-prision-rape is always good for a laugh. The best line in this set was “And you consider yourself a smart phone!” This was not safe at all, but it was comprehensible. And quite hilarious.
One danger of puppet slams, for the audience at least, is that this is not the same as open mike stand up comedy. No matter how bad a comedian is…he is attempting comedy. At puppet slams, there are always puppeteers who consider themselves artists. And this was true with two of the acts.
The performance by the ensemble Ex Somnium involved sheets, masks, lights, and a metal bowl played as a musical instrument. It was not coherent enough to even describe properly, though “community college theater production of Miyazaki’s Spirited Away” comes close, if the community college is Greendale, from the TV show “Community.”
Another act, by the group White Sheet Ensemble, imitated Electric Company’s classic routine of “So” plus “ck” equals “Sock.” Except that one combination that they used was “Fu” and…good night everyone! No seriously..it started with obscenities and went to racial epitaphs. The pacing was excruciating and one viewer remarked the group should watch Robot Chicken to learn about timing and how long a bit should go on.
In addition to the live puppetry, there was a film entry by Leat Klingman. This charming piece involved ballet dancing done by finger puppets on a set made of a shoe box.
Two amusing acts filled the middle of the show: Vivian the Librarian doing what was basically a straight up stand up routine about releasing one’s private librarian, and a sock puppet debate between Barack (Ba-SOCK) Obama and Sara Palin.
After a brief intermission, the show resumed with the oddest act of puppetry this writer has seen. While the audiobook version of Vagina Monologues played, local actor and puppeteer Steve Westdahl, used a puppet to recite the play. The puppet was made from a latex sex toy designed for men and looking definitively vaginal. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleshlight His presentation was either brilliant or insane, or maybe both and ended with a passionate kiss between Steve and his puppet.
Beau Brown, creator of The Sci-Fi Janitors,, premiered a new franchise “Space Beavers.” This is not a kid friendly act, or rather maybe it is. It focuses on Beavers readying themselves for space travel and features jokes on the words “beaver,” and “wood.” Nothing gets a beaver excited, we all could learn, like wood. Well okay…maybe it’s not kid friendly, but it was juvenile. And pretty funny. “Beavers in Space” had rough spots, but showed promise.
The show ended with surprisingly average sketch from Greggplant, one of Atlanta’s premiere Puppet Comedians. Greggplant is the five time winner of The Puckin’ Fuppet Show, but this month’s entry didn’t garner a single vote. His piece about a paper bag awkwardly asking out a carrot on a date lacked his usual strength. This piece had been written earlier that day. I would expect that in the near future Greggplant with come back with his usual complexity and humor.
The audience was allowed to vote for the winners, and during the voting The Sci-Fi Janitors Bob and Carl entertained with new videos from AnachroCon. When the voting was finished, no one was surprised—but we were all a little ashamed. As a group, the audience had favored acts that we would not be able to explain to our mothers. The winners were:
1st place: The Monologue
2nd Place: Can You Hear Me Now?
3rd Place: Space Beavers
The Set List:
John Craven and Chip Boyes – “Can You Hear Me Now?”
Ex Somnium – “From Nothing”
Josh Hammonds and Nate Devoll “Presidential Puppets”
Leat Klingman “The Spring Dance”
Vivian The Comedian Librarian “The Inner Librarian”
The White Sheet Ensemble “A Response”
Steve Westdahl “The Monologue“
Beau Brown and Nate Devoll “Space Beavers“