BWW Reviews: Puppet Monsters Run Amuck in THE CRAPSTALL STREET BOYS
There are two types of people in Austin: those who have seen a Trouble Puppet show, and those who have not yet seen a Trouble Puppet show. Regardless of which one you are, The Crapstall Street Boys is certain to be 75 minutes of pure entertainment.
Like Trouble Puppet's recent productions of Cruel Circus and The Head, The Crapstall Street Boys stems from the deliciously delirious mind of Connor Hopkins who serves as this production's playwright/director/set designer/puppet designer/artistic superhero. What Hopkins gives us is a warped and unpredictable cautionary tale that owes just as much to Charles Dickens as it does to Godzilla. In Hopkins' dystopian world, monsters freely roam the streets, and homeowners are encouraged to purchase a Household Weapon for Monster Defense, or Home WMD. The crass and cranky Mister and Missus want the top-of-the-line model that they can't afford, a choice clearly influenced by the incessant media assault they receive every time they turn on their television, and are continually annoyed by their young son, You Lad. Ultimately, they come to a solution that solves both problems. They force You Lad into living and working at the Home WMD manufacturing plant and receive a new Home WMD in return. But as You Lad works at the plant, he discovers the origin of the monsters that his company is protecting against.
While Cruel Circus featured a motley crew of quirky, distinctly developed characters and The Head was purposeful in its approach to the topic of mental health, The Crapstall Street Boys tries to give us more story and plot and seems a little lighter in other areas. That's not to say that it's void of interesting characters or a poignant purpose. Some characters-particularly the rotund, strict plant manager and his sniveling assistant-are memorable, as are the thematic elements regarding how the media plays to our fears. Additionally, the puppet and set designs are impeccable and detailed, and the occasional use of handheld cameras to project up-close, real-time shaky cam footage is a unique and unexpected touch. But while The Crapstall Street Boys is just as entertaining as prior Trouble Puppet shows, it feels a little unfinished, and some plot points are fuzzy. Is You Lad sold to the factory? Is he completely oblivious of his parent's disdain towards him? And most importantly, are we supposed to sympathize with him after we see him kill a random stranger with a brick and cover him with trash in an unnecessary and puzzling sequence that is played for laughs?
But small criticisms aside, The Crapstall Street Boys is 75 minutes of fantastic absurdity as only Trouble Puppet can deliver.
Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission
THE CRAPSTALL STREET BOYS, produced by Trouble Puppet Theater Company, plays the Salvage Vanguard Theatre at 2803 E Manor Road, Austin 78722 now thru Saturday, March 15th. Tickets are $16-$25. For tickets and information, please visit http://www.troublepuppet.com/