Hard Headed Heart | Victory Gardens Theater | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader
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"Saint James Infirmary"

"Saint James Infirmary"

Kipling Swehla

When: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 8 2010
Price: $25
blairthomas.org
If I were making a list of Chicago performers with especially expressive features, alongside humans like E. Faye Butler and Colm O'Reilly I'd have to place the wood, paper, and cloth creations of puppeteer Blair Thomas. This is especially remarkable given that those features are generally painted on. The puppets' often doleful expressions and affecting gestures--the downward tilt of a marionette's head, a trembling wooden hand--convey such reservoirs of feeling (usually hurt) that to classify them as objects seems not only inaccurate but demeaning. In this solo show, first produced last summer, Thomas presents three works: Federico Garcia Lorca's Punch-and-Judy-esque "The Puppet Play of Don Cristobal;" "Saint James Infirmary," based on the traditional blues song and rendered with rod marionettes; and "The Blackbird," an adaptation of Wallace Stevens's poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," using shadow puppets projected on parchment scrolls. Inventive, moving, and funny, the evening supplies a quality much desired in the theater but seldom delivered: wonder. --Zac Thompson

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