Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Old Hats

If you haven’t seen it already, run, don’t walk to the Signature Theater and see David Shiner and Bill Irwin in “Old Hats.” It's sort of a revival of their big hit from a decade or so ago "Fool Moon'' and its just as good, if not better. There’s all kinds of info available online, so I won’t bore you with a book report blog entry here.

However, a few months ago (how’s that for breaking news, folks?) Puppet Heap had the pleasure of consulting for and helping out with a puppet effect for one of David’s pieces, "The Hobo," a kind of Emmet Kelly inspired performance. It was a truly enlightening experience to spend a little time with such a master of his craft and get a glimpse of how these things come together. Of course, the comedy, the props and the shtick were all carefully worked over, but the most notable thing about watching David develop his performances is the emotional depths he's willing to plumb to find just the right note, the right moment to really grab the audience.

The great thing about this show is how it successfully melds good old fashioned vaudeville with thoroughly modern sensibilities and production values. Mel Brooks once said “funny is funny” no matter what, and that it’s all the same jokes dressed up in different clothes.  And I think that’s true as long as the clothes are in fashion.

Watching the show, I thought this is exactly what I want to be doing with my little puppets--not an original idea by any means. Heck, the Muppet Show was nothing if not a vaudeville variety show--a popular formula in 70s television. But it’s this sort of blending of the thoroughly modern with the evergreen classic that’s just such an easy joy when it works. And in this case, it really works!


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