Sunday, October 27, 2013

Innocent When You Dream by Zeb L. West, Salvage Vanguard Theatre, October 25 and 26, 2013

ALT review

by Dr. David Glen Robinson

Innocent When You Dream just shrieks festival piece—simple set design, simple-looking props, simply costumed performer sleeping and dreaming on-stage as the house opens. All these things have to be in place and removed quickly in a sequence of similar performance pieces performed in one evening. Then all of it has to be crated up and shipped to the next festival. After the curtain call, Zeb West, the creator and performer of Innocent When You Dream thanked his Kickstarter contributors for supporting the piece’s travels so far.

But that was later. When the performance lights went up at the beginning of the performance, there was a waking man telling us we’re all in the belly of the whale together with him, and his name is Jonah. OK, now we knew this was a piece about insanity, confirmed by Jonah’s incessant talk of the crackers that he lived on that all got soggy so he can’t share any with the audience.

Innocent When You Dream Zeb L. West Austin TX

Where could anyone go with this insane premise? Mr. West/Jonah showed deftness in taking us with him with his sweetness, friendliness, and a lot of encouraging talk directly to the audience. The audience was with him from the git-go. He showed a certain boldness as well, spinning engaging material out of the two probably mossiest, most hidebound but eternally fascinating works of literature found lying about inside whales, Don Quixote and Moby Dick. West merged their stories into a lament for all lives and relationships gone wrong. Yes, this show was about love and loss.

Trouble Puppet’s creations always have the quality of imagination in their fabrication, color, and concept. The human touch gives them life. And puppeteers, good ones, know the character they want to give each puppet. All of Zeb West’s puppets were hand puppets, their characters keyed distinctively by West’s character voices. Their stories meshed into a satisfying whole, and the stage was inhabited by a number of fascinating characters, without any use of ventriloquism.

Trouble Puppet Theatre Company member West has taken a slightly different tack with Innocent When You Dream, His one-man show, but he retains their commitment to innovative puppetry, heightening the band's reputation for skillful and efficient production. The audience was happy to render its standing ovation in appreciation. The show ran only one weekend, October 25 and 26 at the Salvage Vanguard Theatre studio space. My only wish for this worthy show would be for a longer run and a printed program to give due credit to the producing staff, designers, and the 98 supporters who kicked in $4240 -- 125% of Zeb's goal -- through his Kickstarter page to make possible his production and summer 2013 tour across Canada and the United States.

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