Who I Was Yesterday

By - May 1st, 2007 02:52 pm
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Moct Bar sits in an area just south of downtown that is rapidly being carved into an upscale, trendy haunt for the young, wealthy and reasonably hip. Amidst shiny new condos and expensive restaurants, nestled in a space that apparently is a converted machine shop, Kurt Hartwig’s theatre outfit Bad Soviet Habits is staging a trippy little show involving stilts, puppets, the number 93 and quite a few other things. Who I Was Yesterday is a dreamlike neo-mythic fairy tale that touches on quite a few things without much regard for depth or coherence.

To be fair to Writer/Director Kurt Hartwig, Who I Was Yesterday is a very ambitious project. The story goes a little something like this – twin humanoid sons of a Manticore (face of a woman, body of a lion, tail of a scorpion) are being raised by their towering humanoid grandparents. Their fate as offspring of an evil monster is to be hunted by it until they reach the age of 18. Apparently Manticores are quite insistent about eating their children. It’s a mythic coming of age story fitting somewhere between the age of fairy tales and the contemporary world.

A story such as this could be produced for the stage in a variety of different ways. Hartwig’s vision as realized here is incredibly complex. The twins are whimsically presented as Andy North wearing one mask and holding another, occasionally switching them for effect, which is simple enough but there’s a lot more going on here. The twins’ grandparents are played by Amie Segal and Kurt Hartwig himself. On stilts. In makeup. Susan Currie plays Mother Manticore by wearing a huge, bulky metal mask complete with glowing eyes. While this probably takes a great deal of focus and concentration, it may be the single greatest waste of acting talent to make it to the local stage this season. Currie is a remarkable actress; she can do a lot more than serve as support for a metal mask onstage.

Aside from the main characters, there are a lot of puppets. Some of them are effective. Some of them aren’t. And some of them meet with mixed results. The bedbugs that haunt the twins, for instance, make a clever rattling, scratching sound as their thin metal bodies scrape across the bar’s stage, but they don’t offer much of a visual impact. For the most part, all we’re seeing of them is the puppeteer pushing them across the floor. It looks a bit silly unless you make a conscious effort to focus on the puppets. One of the more effective puppets in the show is The Marionette, a character which acts as sort of a narrator who sometimes interacts with the twins. A puppet sits high above a curtain that covers the puppeteer. The apparatus holding the curtain and the puppet are harnessed to the puppeteer (Tom Thoreson) who is free to walk around the stage. It’s a lot more effective than it sounds, even if the puppet itself doesn’t always articulate much.

All smaller problems aside, the mood of the show goes a long way here. Dixie Jacobs did both makeup and scenic painting, making for an interesting visual that pairs well with the overall visual feel of the show. Randy Bobo’s sound design may be overpowering in places, but it carries enough of the show to wrap all of the elements together in a complete package that is far more than a simple curiosity.

Bad Soviet Habits’ production of Who I Was Yesterday runs now through May 12th at Moct Bar. For more info, call 414-471-1451 or visit www.badsoviethabits.org. VS

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