BWW Review: PUPPETS AND POE: DEVISED DEFIANCE at Theatre Of Yugen is a Halloween ode to Edgar Allan Poe's macabre themes.
Puppets and Poe: Devised Defiance
Directed by Shannon R. Davis
Theatre of Yugen
Just in time for the Halloween, Theatre of Yugen, renowned for blending multisensory experiences with the beauty expressed by the Japanese sensibility of "yugen," derived from the Japanese characters yu, meaning "deep, quiet, or other-worldly," and gen meaning "subtle, profound, or obscured", offers an evening of Poe-inspired macabre mayhem through a series of vignettes with references to Poe's "The Bells, Tell-Tale Heart; Annabelle Lee; The Raven; Fall of the House of Usher and others.
Performed by a skilled troupe of circus performers, dancers, musicians, actors, poets and writers, Poe's musings are a jumping off point for ruminations on loneliness, love, death and loss. Some of the vignettes are brief, a mere statement, others, like a radio play version of Murders at The Rue Morgue run about ten minutes. There were contemporary pieces explored like a gay disco scene where a man is entombed in a wall ala The Cask of Amontillado.
The talented troupe includes Ariella Cooley, Alan Coyne, Shannon R. Davis, puppet master Steven Flores, Artistic Director Nick Ishimaru and Jamin Jollo, all of whom change costumes and personas in a flash. There are some wonderful team choreographed dances done in Noh type masks. There are themes of death of course, one of Poe's major preoccupations. A lovely dance macabre between Shannon R. Davis and Death as well as a funny skeletal dead woman strip tease.
All the performers act, sing, dance and manipulate puppets, masks and costumes. It was hard to take my eyes off classically trained mime Jamin Jollo, a serious clown who can easily move from farce to drama with a movement or facial manipulation. Puppets and Poe: Devised Defiance is definitely experimental theatre and has that 'let's throw it all out there and see what sticks' kinda feel. Its all good fun, sometime silly, sometimes somber. There's no doubting the skill of the performers who stay in character well before and after the performance is over.
Puppets and Poe: Devised Defiance continues through November 2, 2019 at Theatre of Yugen, 2860 Mariposa street, San Francisco. Tickets available at www.theatreofyugen.org or by calling 415-621-0507.