nytheatre.com review by Hope Cartelli
Deborah Hertzberg and Cat’s Paw
Collective’s puppet masterpiece Nosferatu is a beautiful m�lange
of silent film aesthetics, ingenious use of shadow and projection, and
puppets that is simply riveting.
August 15, 2003
Drawing heavily on the 1922 film, the piece focuses on the newlywed couple Thomas and Ellen and a mysterious count, a.k.a. Nosferatu, who is relocating to their neighborhood. Attention is placed on the action via a tri-part screen which acts as a stage for the puppets and a base for shadow puppets and projected sepia tone inter-title cards. The effect on the audience was one of utter rapture. It was as if the whole house leaned forward in their seats simultaneously to fully take in the experience from this carved-out spot on a sizable stage.
Using the center screen as the main playing space, the puppeteers (Tony Chiroldes, Ceili Clemens, Michael Latini, and Russell Tucker) create vignettes full of charm—a farewell kiss between the happy couple—and humor—an army of rats packing up Nosferatu’s house for the big move. The puppets seem to register a whole roster of subtle, fully realized emotions in one gesture, giving many a live actor a run for his/her money.
The projections magnificently flesh-out the action, serving as a backdrop for certain scenes (the moving landscape behind Thomas’ train car) and as the main attraction in others (Nosferatu’s blood-ridden boat trip to his new home). The piece achieves a beautiful balance when both the projection screens and the center screen are used, as in a moment of desperation for Thomas upon realizing the true nature of Nosferatu. He tries to stop the projections of the setting sun, hoping to keep the rising moon at bay.
In the end, the most amazing accomplishment of the piece is that it takes a well-known story and breaks a viewer’s heart with it anew. The tragedy that befalls the main characters of the story hits hard, resonating as if it were the end of Franco Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet or the Kirov’s Swan Lake—no small feat for puppets. I can only hope that a new audience will have the opportunity to see Nosferatu long after its FringeNYC run.