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BWW Reviews: THE WARS OF HEAVEN Is an Intriguing Miltonic Epic

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Part I of Trouble Puppet's THE WARS OF HEAVEN, is the first part of an epic three-part saga. The story, created by the company under Artistic Director, Connor Hopkins, is told through tabletop and shadow puppetry. Parts II and III are to come in 2016 and 2017. At the core of the story is the concept that angels and demons are among us, serving God and Lucifer, fighting in our wars to uphold an ancient order. The work examines what happens when some of them begin to doubt the rules. The piece is strongly influenced by Milton's "Paradise Lost", an epic telling of Satan's rebellion against heaven.

The story begins with two Russian soldiers in Stalingrad during the Nazi siege. They seem to be your average soldiers complaining about the war. But, on closer examination, the faces of these puppets indicate that they are, in fact, demons. Lucifer and the other demons are female and have rejected male authority. The male angels are the ones who have stayed loyal to heaven.

The piece is underscored with original music by Justin Sherburn with the voices of Convergence, conducted by Brent Baldwin. The score is quite wonderful, but poses some problems for the flow of the work. The main characters resemble the usual Trouble Puppet figures but the story also contains a lot of complex shadow puppetry. The result is a multi-media affair that combines video imagery and puppetry to tell the tale that spans a great period of time. The puppets all have multiple costume changes (and the costuming is excellent) and the pace of the show gets dragged down by transitions that slow the story telling with imagery that begins to become repetitive and the show, as a result, isn't able to sustain the momentum. While some of the visuals are eye popping, the long transitions sap the energy required to keep the story being told engaging.

The performers; Noel Gaulin, Travis Bedard, Gricelda Silva, Parker Dority, Zac Crofford, Katy Taylor, Ellie McBride, and Julie Moore, do a good job with the characters and it is in these moments that the piece is the most captivating. The sound design by K. Eliot Haynes and media design by Chris Owen are both excellent.

While THE WARS OF HEAVEN does have some issues with transitions, it is never the less, an intriguing take on the Miltonic epic.

Running time: Approximately 1 hours and 15 minutes, performed without an intermission.

Note: Not created for children.

THE WARS OF HEAVEN, PART 1, produced by Trouble Puppet, plays The Salvage Vanguard Theater (2803 E. Manor Road) now thru May 17. Thursday - Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 6pm. ASL interpretation offered May 17th.
Tickets: $12-20, available online - troublepuppet.com
Group sales welcome. Director / cast talkbacks are available for groups of five or more.


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