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Flash Review 3, 3-3: Balloon! Balloon!
Boy-Balloon Love at the New Victory

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2000 The Dance Insider

Unlike me, I'm guessing, most of the New York City public schoolchildren in the New Victory Theater Thursday morning had never seen the movie of Albert Lamorisse's "The Red Balloon." So they were probably better disposed than I to judge a Visible Fictions Theatre Company's adaptation of Lamorisse's novel of the same name. If you haven't seen the movie, what I'm about to say may seem silly to you. As a love story, the film of "The Red Balloon" hits children much as "Romeo & Juliet" hits teenagers. You grow to love the red balloon that is discovered by the child Pascal, and that follows him around like a loyal pet, his only friend. Your eyes cringe and your heart aches then breaks when the school bullies stone the balloon to death, and it dies a slow, agonizing death, withering eventually to nothing. And you feel the resurrection of balloon and child-balloon love when a mess oČ other balloons descends from the sky and then lifts Pascal into the clouds.

Even now, having not seen this movie for probably thirty years I can still hear the swelling of the sweepingly sorrowful music.

By comparison, this adaptation was lightweight. The story-telling and acting were all honest, especially that of Veronica Leer as Pascal; it just did not have all the elements going for it that the film has. Seeing this balloon manipulated, puppeteer like Object Theater is actually the correct term it seems, strangely, less human. Douglas Irvine, who holds/portrays the balloon, does his best. The company's choice to have the human balloon handler respond emotionally as opposed to just being a neutral puppeteer is perhaps the only one for a live production. But it underestimates the power of children to imagine. I still mourn the loss of that celluloid balloon, seen thirty years ago; a day after leaving the New Victory, I am over mourning the balloon popped by A Visible Fictions Theatre Company.

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