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The Fortune Teller



By Kerrie Smith

The miniature dollhouse of a set is shrouded in eerie shadows and whistling wind. From the moment the door creaks open and you are greeted by Silas Leech, a crocodile in a suit who introduces himself as a lawyer, you know you are in for a real treat.

Just in time for Halloween, "The Fortune Teller", a sort of marionette play, is inventive, whimsical and macabre, the kind of twisted delight evoking Edward Gorey and Tim Burton.  The brainchild of puppeteer Erik Sanko, with music by the uber-talented Danny Elfman, who himself has worked on many a Burton production, it works on many entertaining levels and with some polishing could be a truly fantastic piece of puppet theatre.

The play unfolds as Silas tells his bizarre tale: seven men - all representing the deadly sins - gather at a dead millionaire's house to find out their fates as told by a fortune teller.   All the men are told how they will encounter their demise in gruesome, ironic ways: the banker (Greed) preoccupied by his money, the hunter (Wrath) obsessed by his own hatred, and the chef (Gluttony) meets quite a curious fate as he bangs on his pots and pans.

The marionettes are great to see and Sanko definitely has fun with their characters but with such tiny features on their little faces they are tad difficult to discern.  There are a few terrific technical moments where the puppeteers place in them in miraculous positions but for the most part they just flutter around with little to do (particularly the Butler – one wonders why he was even created as he does absolutely nothing throughout the show.) The key figure, the Fortune Teller, costumed in perfect Rocky Horror-Riff Raff top hat and pale face, does little more than wave his arms over some cards on a table; one wishes more movement from him. And the final twist falls a little flat; it could be punctuated stronger.

But the pluses outweigh these minor distractions. The set, for starters, is incredibly creative and well appointed with fine details like miniature trinkets and lavish wallpaper, and opens up on the sides to reveal a variety of rooms that one wonders how they change so quickly. Gavin Friday as Silas provides deliciously creepy narration with his sinewy, theatrical linguistics, while the quirky, haunting music by Elfman lends a wonderful eerieness reminiscent of his film work.  Most of the writing is sharp, sprinkled with droll humor suited for adults only.

Yes, this is a great way to get into the scary holiday. If you'll pardon the pun, it's a fun way to kill an hour.

At HERE Arts Center, 145 6th Ave. Now thru November 5th. For tickets visit

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