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San Francisco Fringe 2015

Hang on to Your Hats

The Paper Tramps

Genre: Mask, Puppetry

Venue: Exit Theatre


Low Down

A myriad of masked characters and delightful puppets entertain all ages through gentle slapstick, funny and thoughtful vignettes. It’s light-hearted with hand made masks, puppets and props.


This is a fun and light-hearted show brimming with mask characters, well played by The Paper Tramps duo of Evan Johnson and Michele Menard. There’s a theme of paper in everything, the masks are hand crafted out of Paper Mâché and props are cleverly made out of cardboard and hand painted. Starting with wonderful mood enhancing accordion music and a song by Menard the pace changes as we meet each of the characters. The chatty women with frizzy hair, the elegant homeless lady, the paper boy, the pizza maker and more – all have their moments and then return in a series of entertaining vignettes to continue their stories.

Several of the hand made masks are full face and thus are silent characters – using only their physicality to show emotion – and others are half-masked characters speaking in a variety of voices. Beautiful tiny puppets appear, too, and it would be wonderful to see more of them, (and more puppets in this style) because they look fascinating. Johnson and Menard also add quick changes of simple costumes for each of the characters, adding to the atmosphere and tone of the show, which has a bit of a retro look, here and there, and it works well. Perky music in between the vignettes keeps things moving, although several transitions and scenes could benefit from streamlining and finessing.

The exaggerated characters are relatable and the entire show creates a slice of life through gentle slapstick, funny and thoughtful mini episodes. There’s also a bit of romance! Two assistants dressed in white with animal masks bring on the little sets and have their own shimmy dance number, rounding out the cast. This is a delightful imaginative show for all ages and the two funniest characters are when Johnson and Menard play clowns. They are stylish clowns in their jackets and (of course) hats, which they play with in short comedic slapstick numbers. Their rapport is witty and engaging, and wonderful to watch, whether playing clowns or scenes with the masked characters. This is a feel good show, it looks like the duo had a wonderful time developing this entire performance and it shows in the results on stage, where they are having fun, and so does the audience.