:"....extraordinary imagination in a truly unforgettable performance", nytheatre.com
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Following revelatory sell-out seasons at La Mama Melbourne and Malthouse Theatre Melbourne, "A Quarreling Pair" by Australia's Aphids returns to its inspirational and intellectual source, New York City, to be presented by La MaMa E.T.C., 74A East Fourth Street from October 29 to November 8. The production is part of La MaMa Puppet Series 3, a trio of adult puppet theater productions that are brimming with international art forms. The series is curated by Denise Greber.
"A Quarreling Pair" is actually an evening of three miniature puppet plays including the play by that name written by American avant-garde writer Jane Bowles in the 1940s. Bowles' play is an intense study of the desire to feel both safe and free in our most precious relationships. Aphids' evening adds two more plays for the same two sister characters, one written by Lally Katz and one written by Cynthia Troup. Both of these plays are filled with Bowles' unique blend of comedy and dark candour and elaborate on her ambivalent imagery.
In "Mr Peterson's Milk" by Lally Katz, the sisters are fearlessly together, sharing a surreal adventure inside the milkman's brain. "And When They Were Good" by Cynthia Troup finds the sisters restless, inhabiting an old fairytale.
The evening vividly combines object theatre, live actors, puppets and music. They are performed by actor Caroline Lee and puppeteer Sarah Kriegler and directed by Margaret Cameron. Sound design is by Jethro Woodward.
This production is part of The La MaMa Puppet Series 3, a trio of adult puppet theater productions that are brimming with international art forms. The festival also includes the newest work by Theodora Skipitares, "The Women of Troy" (October 8 to October 25) and Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater in "Twelfth Night (or What You Will)," the timeless Shakespearean tale of mistaken identity and misplaced matrimony, presented in three tea-trays production, adapted and directed by Vít Horejš, with 22 eight-inch toy marionettes and three (more or less) live performers (November 12 to 29). All three shows are $18 general admission. There are special discounts for purchasing multiple shows in the series: the Two Show Combo is $30; the Three Show Combo is $40.
Puppet Series 3 is made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Jim Henson Foundation, Heather Henson and Cheryl Henson.
"A Quarreling Pair" by Jane Bowles was first performed with A Sentimental Playlet by Charles Henri Ford in 1945 or 1946 at Spivy's Roof, New York, with music by Paul Bowles and puppets made by Kurt Seligmann and Arlette Seligman.
This evening of three plays debuted in 2004 at La Mama Theatre, Australia as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. It was subsequently performed in 2005 in the One Van International Puppet Festival, Blue Mountains; in 2006 at Castlemaine State Festival and in 2007 at Malthouse Theatre.
Founded in 1994, Aphids is artist-led, project-driven and not-for-profit. Based in Melbourne, Aphids undertakes cross-artform projects usually involving contemporary music, international cross-cultural exchanges and collaborations. Artistic Director of the company is David Young. Aphids has worked with hundreds of artists in Australia and overseas, with backgrounds in music, theatre, performance, writing, puppetry, architecture, design, visual art, fashion, film, multimedia, digital art, dance, sound art and lighting. The troupe has presented work in Australia, Asia, Europe, South Africa, Central America and the USA.
by Richard Hinojosa
read this review online
The ties that bind us can be unbreakable and that can be a blessing and a curse. We long for companionship while simultaneously craving independence, and that ambivalence can drive us to petty squabbling over the most mundane daily routines. Aphids' A Quarreling Pair explores these bonds with extraordinary imagination in a truly unforgettable performance.
The show is three short puppet plays, two of which riff on the original puppet play written by Jane Bowles in 1945. The first is the original, from which the play takes its title, and it is followed by Mr Peterson's Milk by Lally Katz and finally And When They Were Good by Cynthia Troup. Altogether the show is only about 45 minutes but it does not seem that short. The first piece finds two aging sisters who live together in a claustrophobic yet mutually supportive relationship. One sister badly wants to re-enter society but the other manipulates her in such a way that highlights how much she really does love her sibling. The next piece finds the sisters on an adventure. They have just quit smoking and they feel the need to get back out in the world. The world they occupy is one of endless possibilities and they make the most of each one. This serves to strengthen their bond. The final piece finds the sisters in a bizarre fairy tale. This piece is very dreamlike. One of the sisters seems to have escaped the entrapment of their relationship but they still cannot break the bond between them.
I really enjoyed all of the writing. The plays are rather surreal so you may interpret the stories a bit differently than I did, but the essence of the sisters' relationship is very clear. The production elements of this show are what really shine. It combines puppets with live actors, object theater, songs and music in a manner that lights up your imagination and fills you with childlike joy. Every little detail is filled with animation and fantasy, from the book that flies onto the set like a bird to the conversion of an old vanity table into a versatile set piece from which the performers can operate puppets through little doors and traps.
The performers, Caroline Lee and Sarah Kriegler, are amazing. They can switch gears from story to story and never lose sight of the overreaching relationship of the sisters. Their chemistry on stage is palpable and that worked to draw me in closer to the sisters. Director Margaret Cameron does an outstanding job at highlighting the essence of the sisters' bond amid such an abstract and fantastical world. Cameron's vision for a production that is both light and funny while remaining somewhat dark and mysterious comes across vividly. The show is seamlessly executed. All the elements come together in an even flow of music, movement, and dialogue. The sound design, created by Jethro Woodward, is fantastic. It slips in under the dialogue and swirls around the action and fills the journey with tenderness and mystery.
A Quarreling Pair reminds me of something I may have seen as a child because it's so filled with imagination and play, but the themes are a bit darker. One thing I love to see at the end of a play is a messy stage. This show not only ends with a messy stage but it left me feeling like I'd peered into a strange world where anything can happen so long as you believe in love. And I like that feeling.