La Divina Caricatura. What happens when things get weird?
What originally drew me to La Divina Caricatura over at La MaMa was the description on the website that labeled it as a "Bunraku Puppet Pop-Opera". I didn't have the slightest idea what this meant, but I was definitely intrigued. Puppetry, pop music, and opera all conflicted with each other, at least in my mind, and I think it was curiosity that prompted me to see it all for myself. I barely stepped foot in the theatre before I was accosted by staff warning me to be conscious of "severe weather conditions" in the front row. At first I thought they were kidding. Of course they were, it was clearly an indoor theatre. But their serious expressions told me otherwise. So it was with a degree of caution that I made my way to said front row, unsurprised to see large pieces of paper taped to each seat, notifying those who dared to sit up front about "chances of snowfall". Feeling adventurous, I decided to brave the elements, and plopped down in one of those seats with authority.
From that point on things got weird, and quickly. This play had, um, anatomically correct puppets, cross species breeding, and a shaggy dog named Rose with inappropriate feelings towards her drug addicted owner. And the story was told through a live orchestra and a mix of wonderfully catchy Blues and Jazz tunes.
It was a bit of a sensory overload, with mass media and crude puppetry. I must admit that an hour in, at intermission, upon realizing that the bulk of the show was still ahead of me, I thought to myself, "I don't know how much more of this I can take!". And I wasn't alone. One elderly couple walked out during intermission, loudly proclaiming that they were "all dogged out for one night". I looked at them with envy as I watched them go, but braced myself for another hour and a half all the same. This had to be the most bizarre experience I've had at a play.
And the snow that I was so unconcerned about before turned out to be a tad more burdensome than I had initially expected. At the end of it all, while simultaneously cursing myself for wearing all black and doing jumping jacks to rid myself of the white fluff that seemed to be over every inch of my body, I found myself wishing that I'd have taken those stupid "weather reports" seriously.
But I suppose there is something to be said for the way La Divina Caricatura offered no apologies and brought their vision to life. And while the acts that some of these puppets performed made me blush and downright gasp, it did not take away from the skill of the puppeteers. Previous to this show, my familiarity with puppetry was limited to what I saw in Avenue Q and War Horse, so when I walked into La MaMa, I never expected to see puppetry being used in such non-conventional ways, which… I guess is the point of experimental theatre: to show us something we've never seen before.