Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Theater: In deep.

Last week, the wife and I managed to catch one of the plays from the NYC Fringe Festival. We'd hoped to catch Powerhouse, a biographical musical about the life of mutant jazz innovator Raymond Scott. Sadly, that show was sold out. But we'd settled on going to a play, and by God, we were going to see a damn play!

We decided on The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer mainly on the strength of its title. It narrowly beat out I Can Has Cheezeburger, a musical about Lollercat's quest to obtain a burger (sample line: "I know what a cheeseburger tastes like. It tastes like my destiny."), and Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party, which is - I'm assuming - about everybody's favorite allegedly gay president and a dance party that is both notably well attended and appeals to homosexuals.

It was, in retrospect, a happy accident. Despite belonging to the dreaded subgenre of "one man show" (which too often is to stand-up comedy what the Special Olympics are to the Olympics), Sputnik was the best live performance experience I've had since the Met's new fx-heavy production of Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust.

A post-apocalyptic musical tragic comedy with overtones of Python and Pixar, Sputnik is set in a flooded world of the future. The play follows the misadventures of the titular explorer who, after losing his wife and watching her soul sink to the bottom of the ocean, agrees to participate in a deep sea suicide mission to discover a sunken paradise that will serve as humanity's new home. The future of humanity rests in the hands of man who really just wants a little more time with his wife.

All the roles/songs/fx are worked by the pixilated Tim Watts. Watts sings, manipulates puppets, plays mandolin, and acts - all while using a Wiimote to work an interactive animation screen.

It's like getting to watch what's going on in Michael Gondry's head live.

Watt's play isn't for everybody. While his awkwardly goofy humor is winning and could easily appeal to a broad audience, his willingness to unabashedly embrace maudlin sentimentality and go deeply melodramatic could put off folks looking for a bite of cynicism or a patina of cool irony.

Personally, I dug it.

Here's a montage clip that captures the play's kooky Tinker-Toy charm.

1 comment:

PowerhouseFan said...

Sputnik was wonderful wasn't it? If you're a puppetry fan, you should definitely check out "Powerhouse," which has added a few performances as part of Fringe Encores. Check out for dates.