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Flash Review 2, 9-14: 'Night' Belongs to Puppets
Behind the Windows with Janie Geiser

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2000 Susan Yung

An anonymous woman runs from the city into the forest, falling face first into a thicket of growing foliage. This sets the scene for Janie Geiser's evocative journey through a city threaded with puppet taxi cabs, a mortuary (staffed by the only larger-than-life sized puppet), a lonely suburban street lined with houses containing people in the messy process of living, and more.

"Night Behind the Windows," seen last night at La MaMa E.T.C., offers many meditative moments filled with stillness and longing, evoking abandonment, loss, belonging, and redemption. The tone was underscored by dolorous, film noir music by Chip Epsten. The use of film throughout lent the performance a flattering, sometimes fatuous complexity. (In fact, two short films preceded the main piece, though one would have sufficed as they were repetitive in substance and style.)

The puppetry of Janie Geiser & Co. encouraged the audience to channel its collective concentration on the subtle, minute action onstage. Cloaked in darkness but for surgical pinlights (the terrific lighting was by Emily Stork), presented with pared down, minimal movement by the puppets, we were given little choice in what to focus on. The small size of the sets -- the city not much larger than a small desk -- practically demanded opera glasses.

I tried to watch the puppet and its puppeteers equally; what did it say that the movements of the humans, which could be interpreted by some as dance, were only slightly more interesting than those of the puppet, and then only sometimes? The very visible presence of the puppeteers was both distracting and provocative, making me realize how complex locomotion really is. And I have not yet pinpointed the performative merits of employing three big people to make one small puppet walk, run, and walk some more.

"Night Behind the Windows," part of the Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater, is performed again tonight, Friday, and Monday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at noon and 5 p.m. Performers include Judith Anderson, Jonathan Berger, Erik Blanc, Trudi Cohen, Anney McKilligan, Eli Presser, and Ellen Van Wees. Costumes and vocals are by Anney McKilligan.

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