nytheatre.com review by Ivanna Cullinan
October 24, 2010
La MaMa E.T.C. is having a puppet festival that includes several "adult" puppet shows—which is not to say the content might warrant raised eyebrows but rather that these shows warrant some serious consideration as well as immediate entertainment. One such production is Chopin--An Impression, created by Poland's Bialystok Puppet Theatre. With live music, a small amount of somewhat verse-like narration (a snippet of Rilke?) and dark, dreamy images, Chopin--An Impression is a 45-minute dream of Chopin and his life.
Beautifully realized, the narration is spoken in Polish with distant but legible captioning in back that floats above the event. The puppeteers are all grays and silvers and whites, costumed almost as if coachmen taking us through this land of dreams. Throughout the music leads, as if going through mists of time or consciousness and into this place where moments of Chopin's life suspend forever in time. The marionette Chopin is wonderfully realized and the articulation of his hands so that he has articulated finger technique, is astonishing. To watch both puppet and puppeteer engage with the music is quite wonderful. Figures from Chopin's life do make appearances—Liszt and three women, Maria Wodzinska, Delfina Potocka and George Sand. The woman marionettes all hover above the piano and across from Chopin, out of reach but tantalizing. Each interacts in a different way and the range of expression is quite impressive but there is an ultimately somewhat static moment when the image seems to have played out and yet continues.
That ultimately may be the minor caveat I have about the piece: while it is beautiful and does create a moment that is complete and transports the audience to another place, it drifts. The experience is lovely but somewhat static and it is unclear what the ultimate intent of this moment is—an introduction to Chopin? A survey of pivotal moments to prompt you to look into the story of his life? A lovely 45 minutes of music enriched with a strong visual element? Perhaps, all have their validity and it is unarguable that Chopin--An Impression is lovely and will tug at your memory afterwards even if you don't quite know why.