Edinburgh Fringe 2010
This is an amazingly slick show, with a script working on so many levels it is bewildering. David Strassman has created a show that is certainly one of a kind and he shows impeccable skill and precision in his control of the puppet and its character.
Set entirely in a therapist’s waiting room, the roles are gradually reversed as Zack the puppet cleverly convinces Jack that he is actually the puppet himself. The discussion goes from politics to existentialism to the subconcious and identity and back again, as Strassman waits for his psychologist to arrive.
The script, written by Steve Altman, is exceptional and is in a quick fire style that perfectly matches the unusual dynamic between an actor and his puppet. Zack does most of the talking as he gives us his opinions and beliefs, giving him a personality that increasingly blur our perceptions. There are hilarious one liners but on the whole the script is quite dark so anyone looking for more of a comedic ventriloquist’s show may be (only slightly) disappointed. On the other hand for those looking for a really dark piece also may be unsatisfied as although it enters dark territory, it isn’t maintained, and the ending feels somewhat sudden and rushed, with the doctor coming in right at the very end. I would perhaps have liked to have seen how the doctor reacted to the situation.
Strassman’s interchanging voices sometimes feel a bit too fast and on a similar level. It is hence the slower, more reflective moments when the puppet looks at the audience for recognition that work best, and also when it becomes most real and creepy.
Strassman’s own acting isn’t bad, if sometimes a bit flat; but his voice, with the puppet’s acting, is superb. His manipulation of the puppet using remote control is also expertly done. The direction of the piece sometimes feels a bit uncertain, as Strassman moves around the set from sofa, to desk, to pedestal with the puppet.
This is a fantastic achievement by an artiste at the top of his game. But at an hour long, it occasionally feels a bit rushed, and a little too slick, and as a whole doesn’t completely satisfy. Perhaps because as a piece of traditional narrative theatre it is limited, and instead is a very clever, satirical dialectic between a man and his characterization.