Edmond Chibeau looks at performance and theatre from the avant-garde communication perspective

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Mastodon Tracks In New Britain

The Impracticality of Modern-Day Mastodons

by Rachel Teagle
directed by Jake Williams
produced by Johnny Peifer
Hole in the Wall Theatre, New Britain
Aug 2, 2014  (closes Aug. 23)

The Impracticality of Modern Day Mastodons is one of the best pieces of theatre available in Connecticut this Summer, catch it if you can.
Two keys to making a puppet work with actors in a live production are the small movements of the puppet and how well the human actors respond to and react with the puppet.  The current play at the Hole In The Wall Theatre, directed by Jake Williams, manages to fulfill both of those requirements.  Lisa DelCegno as the voice of the beast is wonderfully sympathetic and brings the giant puppet to life

The Mastodon was made by master puppet maker and Kinetic Sculpture Artist, Ann Cubberly.  The shimmering “skin” of the mastodon, and the many small movements made by the three puppeteers imbued the beast with both personality and emotional responsiveness.  I found myself comparing the piece to War Horse, that I was lucky enough to see during its run at Lincoln Center.

The premise of Mastodon: “what if our childhood dreams came true?” opens up endless possibilities for development.  Director, Jake Williams and his cast explore the possibilities of Teagle’s script with insight and ingenuity. 
Williams has DelCegno, the mastodon, who is the most fantastic character, play it most closely to realism.  While the other actors’ performances are more wild and surrealist.  
The individual performances run a spectrum of acting styles.  Vickie Blake, as the headhunter, Delores, turns in an-over-the top performance reminiscent of Phyllis Diller at her most manic.  Abby Auden, has a great sense of character and is unflappable on stage.  At 11 years old, she is a star in the making.  Brett Aiello, as the boyfriend, has a prosecutorial glare in his portrayal of the James Bond dreamer.  Jill Ann Dvorsky doubles as a news reporter and a temptress; she is a laugh a minute.  Joshua Ives also doubles as Pat St. John and Paleontologist 1.  He makes a strong contribution to the cast.  Reading from front to back, puppeteers Rob Ecker and Nicki LaPorte are sensitive and understated in their manipulation of the giant Mastodon.
The Jake Williams production of the Rachel Teagle play is a mad mix of acting styles and somehow it works, as a matter of fact, it flies.