In the beginning God created puppets and the puppets were very, very cool. It came to pass that God wanted the puppets to tell us some really great little stories — so God created Meat and Potato Theatre. Stopping by the Playbill Cafe on a Sunday afternoon for a light lunch is a pleasant experience but if you add an afternoon theatre matinee afterwards the day becomes a treat. Beginnings, which is currently mounted at 1409, is such a treat.
This crafty production consists of six stories told through the use of poets and masked dancers. Derived from the folk tales and myths of the American Indian and other native peoples – Meat and Potato delivers a mesmerizing blend of lessons learned and delicious design. Prometheus and How The Robin Got His Red Breast work best, the later uses a couple of everyday day-glo Eskimos that have to battle a particularly nasty bear who is intent on ending their bright but still rather mundane lives. Needless to say a Robin Read Breast comes to their rescue. The Maiden and Her Brothers a variation on Seven Chinese Brothers is delightfully staged using a back lit screen, the silhouettes dancing merrily around. Not as successful is Why The Days Grow Long and Short which suffers from an overly annoying tiger. Both the opening and ending stories (The Water Mother and The Lion and the Butterfly) are told with the aid of robed, masked actors whose movements seemed restrained by the confined Playbill space.
I suspect this production is a work in progress and Meat and Potato will be improving and sculpting this show as the run progresses. Making use of puppets and unusual props and costumes, Meat and Potato is a welcomed diversion from the majority of the theatre we experience. Tobin Atkinson and crew are to be congratulated for bringing us something to challenge how we view and describe the theatre experience.