Plan 9 from Outer Space meets Short Circuit in Planet Egg, Puppet Cinema’s low-fi, heart-felt science fiction spectacular.
Planet Egg might be best described as a puppet space-opera. The hero, a robot crafted from spare parts, crash-lands on an alien planet made from an egg-like substance that is inhabited by breakfast foods. The robot must brave this new world, battling and befriending the natives if he hopes to survive long enough to fix his spaceship and fly home. Along the way he encounters quick-yolk, the music of George Michael, and a host of indie cinema’s most adorable mushrooms. Highlights include rock montages, inventive chase scenes, and the first inter-planetary love story involving a robot and a vegetable.
Unlike most science fiction epics, Planet Egg is performed live. To the side of the large screen our heroes flicker across, Ien DeNio, the dimly-lit sound designer, crinkles, pops, and mashes various trash-like objects to create many of the films sound effects (at one point even whirling a vacuum cleaner’s tube around her head.) On the opposite side, puppeteers Zvi Sahar and Justin Perkins are plainly visible to the audience as they manipulate their creations across the large spinning background that creates Planet Egg.
Filmed in real-time, their miniature puppets are projected larger-than-life onto the screen as the story unfolds.
This shouldn’t work. Seeing what goes on behind the scenes should take the fun out of the low-budget effects. Watching the puppets being returned to their waiting places once off-screen ought to remind us that what we are watching is not real, and pull the audience out of the story.
But the puppetry is nuanced and convincing, and it is impossible not to become enthralled with Puppet Cinema’s playful storytelling. Witnessing the often frantic efforts the puppeteers go through to pull off their touchingly low-fi effects (feeding each other food to create the sounds of their characters eating, arming an angry mob of mushrooms with kitchen matches, etc), carries the audience through any lulls that occur during scene changes.
Saved from being too-cute by a morally-challenging twist towards the show’s end, Planet Egg has more than enough charm to win over any skeptics, and is a stand-out in an already strong Fringe Festival. You will see many stellar plays around Fort Fringe, but where else will you witness a cult-classic science fiction film performed live every night? Crash land your spaceship on Planet Egg soon, before it’s pulled from our orbit at July’s end.
Planet Egg has 7 shows before its spacecraft blasts off July 29, 2012, from Warehouse, 645 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC
Details and tickets
Reviewed by Michael Beeman