Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Adam Sultan by Steve Moore, Physical Plant Theatre and Trouble Puppet Theatre Company at Fusebox Festival, Salvage Vanguard Theatre
by Dr. David Glen Robinson
The big black box that is the Salvage Vanguard main theater was set with the props and furniture that said “small apartment.” The scary, striking aspect of it all was the array of nine black-garbed human figures standing in it; they were puppeteers in full dress—veils, gloves and slippers/sneakers—and they stayed with us throughout the performance.
The performance began, lights up, with the entrance of two human figures, not puppets. Adam Sultan the character was played by musician and composer Adam Sultan; the character of Karen was played by Caroline Reck, master puppeteer of Glass Half Full Theatre. Both characters wore red clown noses, and enacted an introductory scene showing them to have just returned from a clown’s funeral. The clown noses had been a final request of the deceased clown. They finished the scene by placing the novelty noses in a mason jar and sealing it. Then they stood out downstage, facing the audience. One of the puppeteers (Zac Crofford) also stood forward slightly with a bow and fired time’s arrow straight up. Time then rolled through decades as a voice-over stated the names and years of death of actual, living members of the Austin theatre community. Speculative causes of death were cause for hilarity in the audience as every name was known to many. Meanwhile, the puppeteers—no spoiler here—manipulated the two characters, re-costuming them, and, with the puppeteer’s magic touch, imposing the movements and postures of advancing age upon the characters.
Adam Sultan is a powerfully imaginative work, yet in its infancy, a work in progress. The performance piece is an offering of Physical Plant Theatre, written and directed by Steve Moore. It seems as though production credit should also go to Trouble Puppet Theatre Co. as seemingly all of the Trouble Puppeteers performed on the stage throughout the show and also fabricated puppets and several costumes. Perhaps Trouble Puppet shows up as a wholly owned subsidiary on Physical Plant’s flowchart; I don’t know. Regardless of labels, these are the same artists who gave us the dark and innovative Crapstall Street Boys at the Fronterafest Long Fringe only a couple of months ago. Clearly, they work at a furious pace. In an introductory speech Moore told is that Adam Sultan has been in development only about a month. What we saw tonight will be the first act of the full work, slated for production in 2013. The prospect is most auspicious.