The Magic Garden at the Theater for the New City
The running joke in the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre’s The Magic Garden, or, the Princess Who Grew Antlers is a camel demanding stage time. As in previous CAMT productions, puppets tolerate but have little respect for their human operators.
It turns out that the fussy and fuzzy camel has every right to be there. Like the princess of the title story, he too has an antler backstory. Once upon a time, he loaned them to a deer (a cutout on wheels) and wants them back. An hour later, he is still searching while the princesses remain attached because the solider who cast the spell may choose not break it. Then there is also the unfortunate boy transformed into a deer by a wizard who cannot remember the words to release him. Antlers are a mixed blessing: a sign of superiority in the wild but a heavy burden for others, particularly if not worn by choice.
However, antlers are not the only theme in this engaging show. As actor/puppeteers Deborah Beshaw, Michelle Beshaw Theresa Linnihan and Vit Horejs (CAMT’s founder) keep mentioning, it is also about memory. Fairy tales are an oral tradition subject to interpretation. Thus, the premise is that there is merit in not knowing, giving CAMT unlimited creative freedom. The Theater for the New City’s small downstairs stage comes alive when the operators open sacks and remove sheets revealing puppets all sizes and materials. As mentioned, the ones made from linden have a sense of superiority but a cuddly sheep stole the show when Horejs put it on his hand. Missing plot points are filled in by that pesky camel, the singing of folk songs, silly puppet auditions for each tale, and the appearance of Kasparek the clown, a mainstay of Czech marionette shows.
While all of this works extremely well, some of it was lost on CAMT’s younger audience members. They laughed when female puppets – including a witch – auditioned for the Princess but have not yet developed enough of an interest in theater history to recognize Irving Berlin’s A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody is from the Ziegfeld Follies, making the procession even funnier. Similarly, the line “Mirror, mirror on the fourth wall” got laughs only from the bigger kids. Plainspoken arguments over detail remained slightly sophisticated, making the children restless. Yet in time, they too will appreciate CAMT’s hand-carved, lovingly woven magic.
Photos: Theater for the New City
The Magic Garden, or the Princess Who Grew Antlers at Theater for the New City is playing from March 5th 2015 until March 22nd 2015. For further information or to book visit here, for further information on the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre visit here.