Between the Worlds at Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre

Between the Worlds masked performer. Photo by Bruce Silcox

Between the Worlds masked performer. Photo by Bruce Silcox

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre does theater like nobody else, making the familiar larger than life and turning the ordinary into magic. “Between the Worlds,” which opened Friday night, is a celebration of the wonders that only happen in the cold and darkness of winter. It’s a world populated with nocturnal creatures glimpsed under giant stars and moonbeams that pass over our heads, and it’s enchanting!

The cast is a “Chorus of Magnificent, Radiant Women,” numbering about 40, and five “Musical Collaborators,” who play violin, harp, cello, guitar, flute, accordion, marimba, and a fine collection of drums and traps. The women, costumed in shades of white, no two remotely alike, enter silently to the drone of a musical instrument I’ve never seen called a shruti (or shruti box). The player opens and closes it, like a small suitcase, as if to make it breath. It really did serve to transition us to another world. They are all smiling; many look directly at members of the audience and one even gently touched a fussy baby. They move at the same, unhurried pace – together, but not in rhythm, as if there is no perfect way that one needs to enter the mysterious darkness.

Two little girls sitting behind us, who had been leaping about in front of the stage before curtain, were sitting absolutely silent, entranced!

The women sing a simple round about the circle of night and day, day and night, and there we are – in their world. The wash of whites on the black stage provides unity; the variety of voices, ages, sizes and shapes creates visual interest – and then! There are flashes of color as a flock of bright red nightingales burst from the ensemble. Signaled by the birds’ song, “I have a million nightingales on the branches of my heart,” more nighttime creatures appear – owls in stark, white trees, a jackrabbit nibbles its way through the forest … But I mustn’t give it all away!

It’s not all darkness and seriousness, either. Enter “the Crones” for cleverly staged puppetry, daffy comic bits, and a lovely way to underscore the beauty of the feminine in its most spiritual sense. The story might be a little slow moving for some children, but I think there’s plenty of visual interest to keep them cuddling on their parents’ laps or curled up in their own seats.

An original piece, it’s set to culturally diverse music that takes on an appropriate continuity in the able hands of directors Esther Ouray and Laurie Witzkowski. Puppet, mask and set design is by Julie Boada and Sandy Spieler, HOBT’s artistic director who was also one of the performers.

The staging is sometimes homespun, sometimes dazzling and always engaging, but the real beauty of HOBT’s kind of magic is that it’s “touchable” and transparent. There’s no, “how did they do that?” because everyone can see how they did that, which is a good part of the theater’s appeal and charm. I can’t imagine that you would find a more delightful evening for your family. Don’t miss this wintertime gem!

There are a limited number of performances, running through December 21, so if you’re intrigued, I would act quickly.

1 comment for “Between the Worlds at Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre

  1. Judith Froemming
    December 14, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    Thank you for the wonder-full review! It’s a magical show to do and to view ♡

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