If you live in Chicago, you know that yesterday heralded one of our favorite rites of spring: an early batch of April thunderstorms. It was the perfect night to stay in and do nothing. And we might have, if not for having made reservations at a puppet show, of all things, to be held in a residential three-flat not far from our house.
On arrival, we were greeted by some friendly hipsters taking donations in an old metal lunchbox. We popped in our $10 and waited for the show.
Part I was something called "The Matchbox Circus." A woman stood in front of a video monitor that projected the image of her hand moving the various 'performers' across a tabletop stage, the whole thing crafted from matchboxes, wooden matches, and occasional magnets. Projected on the wall, the pieces were larger than life; up close they were no bigger than a fingernail. There was 'the Brave Bunny,' who both got shot from a cannon and leapt into the arms of a fire-breathing dragon. Or Bill the Unscary Pirate, who balanced his seven flying chairs precariously on a thimble.
From there it was up to the attic, where we were treated to a gorgeous story, both visually and thematically -- even more affecting because of the expressions on the faces of the handcrafted paper-mache puppets. The set took up the entire attic and the puppeteers wandered through the crowd to tiny crevices under the eaves or around the brick pillar of the interior chimney. There was also narration, live music, and shadow work, all to tell the story of a man, Alef, who sells his soul to the Devil to avoid being a fool, then has the cavity of his soul filled by the enduring love of his wife, stubborn and soulless herself, but devoted and adoring.
The basis for the story is an old Jewish folk tale, adapted by writer Jonathan Keats in The Book of the Unknown: Tales of theThirty-Six.
So essentially Kate, the puppetmaster, reinterpreted Keats' story, which was itself a reinterpretation of a Jewish parable. But the most interesting reinterpretation, at least for me, was that of an unfinished attic and all that is inherently possible there.