BWW Review: Imago Theatre's LA BELLE: LOST IN THE WORLD OF THE AUTOMATON Overflows with Creativity

BWW Review: Imago Theatre's LA BELLE: LOST IN THE WORLD OF THE AUTOMATON Overflows with Creativity

LA BELLE: LOST IN THE WORLD OF THE AUTOMATON can hardly be called a play. It is a play, but oh so much more - it's also a musical, a puppet show, a clown act, a dance performance, a visual art installation, and an automated wonder. The show, created by Carol Triffle and Jerry Mouawad, is Imago Theatre's take on "Beauty and the Beast." But don't be fooled into thinking you know what's coming. LA BELLE is full of surprises, right up until the very last moment.

The play opens in the boiler room of a steamship, where Sam the stoker lives, shoveling coal and maintaining the ship surrounded by piles of abandoned luggage and with only a teddy bear for company. The ship is set upon by a storm, which sends Sam scrambling to repair all kinds of equipment, and also sweeps Lady Rose, one of the ship's passengers, into the boiler room.

Once the storm calms down, Rose does some snooping and discovers that the cases strewn about the room aren't just castoffs. They contain the story - told via puppets and automata of the kind you'd see in an old-fashioned Penny Arcade - of Belle, a young French woman whose mother was a fairy and whose father stumbles upon a strange castle and unwittingly picks a rose from the garden. From there unfolds the story of Belle and the Beast in concert with that of Rose and Sam.

Despite there being only two actors on stage, many performers work together to create LA BELLE. First, the actors - Jim Vadala's amiable, coal-dust-covered Sam seems inspired by Dick Van Dyke's similarly dirty chimney-sweep in Mary Poppins (like Sam, Bert was also a musician and a maker of magical art), while Justine Davis's quirky style is both a stark contrast and a perfect complement to her soulful singing voice.

Behind the scenes are puppeteers Lance Woolen and Erin Nicole Chmela, who bring many characters to life in the form of puppets large and small. And then there are the automata, a collection of mechanically powered characters and set pieces that give LA BELLE its Steampunk feel.

The set is also a significant character - the physical structures, like the ship, coupled with the sound and lighting design made Imago's stage feel much larger than it actually is. The production values alone are worth going for.

The day I saw LA BELLE, the audience was roughly half kids, half adults (many of whom were not accompanying children). All appeared to be equally enchanted by this rich, creative work of art.

LA BELLE: LOST IN THE WORLD OF THE AUTOMATON runs through April 29. More details and tickets here.



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From This Author Krista Garver

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