BWW Reviews: Trouble Puppet's THE HEAD is Full of Smarts
If the thought of a brilliant hour of theater featuring twisted puppets living in someone's head sounds like your idea of a good time, I have one suggestion for you. Stop what you're doing, buy tickets to see The Head, and then keep reading this review. On the flip-side, if the thought of a brilliant hour of theater featuring twisted puppets living in someone's head does not sound like your idea of a good time, I have one suggestion for you. Stop what you're doing, admit that you're wrong, buy tickets to see The Head, and then keep reading this review. Like their recent hit, The Cruel Circus, which premiered this past spring, The Head is a jaw-dropping piece of theater with a smart, hilarious text and incredibly imaginative visuals.
The play, written and directed by Connor Hopkins and staged completely with puppets, follows a day in the life of The Mechanic, an overworked and often cranky workaholic who lives inside the head of The Man. With the use of some very rusty looking machinery, the Mechanic is able to run all of The Man's functions, from waking up to driving to work to even having sex with the women he meets in bars. The Mechanic's job is difficult as it is due to the Man's depression, lack of ambition, and overall inability to make sound judgments and decisions, but things get worse when the Man's personal demons escape the Limbic Lobe and run amuck inside the Man's head.
Yes, Hopkins's text is full of symbolism and metaphor, but somehow The Head never hits the audience over, well, the head. The text succeeds largely because of its humor and Hopkins's ability to craft unique, interesting, and whimsical characters. The puppet designs, also by Hopkins, are wonderfully quirky and peculiar, and his set design is tarnished and bizarre, a fitting world for his wild creations. One particular character, a "fallen coping mechanism" named "Why the F*** Not?" resembles a small chicken and delights in crapping all over the Mechanic's workspace. Another, named "And Furthermore, F*** You" is a demonic half-lizard half-human monster. A third, the guarded "I Hate Myself, But I Hate You More," is clad in armor. Every puppet is skillfully designed and adds to Hopkins's overall commentary on mental health. The nine person cast of performers and puppeteers wonderfully breathes life into the characters, and they work together with precise unison. The bold, dazzling work extends to the rest of Hopkins's creative team as well. The original score by composer Justin Sherburn is eccentric and strange, the perfect complement to the odd characters and story, and the lighting design by Megan Reilly creates a dark, dusty, somewhat dangerous world.
The Head is one of those rare original works where everything seamlessly comes together. From the writing to the design work to the performers, there's not a single element that is out of place. The difficulties of poor mental health have never been this fun.
Running time: Approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes with no intermission.
NOTE: Due to adult language, The Head is recommended for mature audiences only.
THE HEAD, produced by Trouble Puppet Theatre Company, plays the Salvage Vanguard Theatre at 2803 Manor Rd, Austin, 78722 now thru October 12th. Performances are Thursday - Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 6pm. Tickets are $10-$20. For tickets and information, visit www.troublepuppet.com.