Two weeks ago I ducked into a local movie theatre to attend a new, big-budgeted film about an art heist. Theft, highly-coveted works of art, talented actors; what could possibly go wrong? I walked out of said film a mere hour into the disaster, leaving my friend to laugh at the screen and later bemoan the “worst thing ever.”
Art and entertainment have never been exactly synonymous, but I can’t help but feel as though recent cinema is widening the gap with an unforgiving chainsaw. I prefer to walk out of a show and feel different (as opposed to indifferent, disgusted, or outright enraged.). For all the hard-earned cash we throw down, we deserve as much, don’t we?
Dear public, please stop seeing these terrible, terrible films, and check out something new, something of value. In fact, you can start with The Amazing and Marvelous Cabinets of Kismet, a moving (and entertaining) piece of art puppetry now playing at the Mead Theatre Lab Program at Flashpoint.
Directed by Carmen C. Wong and created by Wit’s End Puppets, the show began on entering the space, when the audience is invited to peruse the blackbox stage as the puppeteers begin the piece. What followed can only be described as a symphony of puppets.
These puppets are hybrids of common household items, fused together to create life. Water bottles, paint rollers, and rubber chickens, are among the items used to craft a stylish pastiche of characters. These characters interact with each other and with their environment, hopping in and out of cabinets, creating electricity, exploring the cracks and crevices of their world. The sheer volume of detail of this show is overwhelming.
At first I struggled with FOM (fear of missing out), as the puppets played out a series of small skits. I learned, however, what’s much more important than registering each detail, is absorbing the sum of the parts these details create. Just as we were given the opportunity to look closely at the smartly crafted puppets while entering the space, we then are expected to step back and observe the puppets engaged in their community, as a whole. Community is a recurring theme of this wordless piece.
The previously mentioned symphony is fascinating to watch, with each puppet playing its own communal role. Though beautiful in form, it is the talented puppeteers that give these puppets the life and personality (Cecilia Cackley, Genna Davidson, Amy Kellett, Matt Reckeweg, Amie Root) that allows them to take on human qualities.
The Amazing and Marvelous Cabinets of Kismet
Closes May 19, 2013
Mead Theater Lab at
916 G St NW
1 hour 15 minutes with no intermission
Thursdays thru Sundays
The set (Samina Vieth), which begins as a detailed array of drawers, cabinets, and household trappings, transforms into a desert-like travel space via a screen, then unfurls into a lively ocean (look closely, even this backdrop is alive), aided by Zarchary Dalton’s lighting. Orchestrated with the clinking and clanking of the puppets on the go, a sharp soundtrack composed of music and rhythmic side effects is also utilized and is one of the production’s most powerful ingredients (Sound Design, Nicole Martin; Video Design, Kate Ketcham).
The Amazing and Marvelous Cabinets of Kismet is as challenging as it is interesting. The piece’s greatest stretch of composition is its finale, which calls to mind the difficult days our country has faced in the wake of violence: Darkness descends, sometimes destroying and sometimes irreparably changing the world we thought we knew. But what’s left after the darkness disappears isn’t ashes, or even shadows; it’s spirit, and a community that can and will be rebuilt.
Leave it to the wildly talented crew of Wit’s End Puppets and the innovative team at Cultural DC to give us the gift of remembering this.
The Amazing and Marvelous Cabinets of Kismet . Created by Wit’s End Puppets . Directed by Carmen C. Wong . Presented by Cultural DC, Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint . Reviewed by Sarah Ameigh.