The Pup at Theatre: P.imps. Show | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Pup at Theatre: P.imps. Show 

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THE PUP AT THEATRE: P.IMPS. SHOW, at TurnAround Theatre. The publicity for this puppet show warns that it's "not for younger audiences." But the humor generated by the Pup At Theatre improv troupe is no bluer than what you'd hear on any playground these days. Besides, the scruffy critters of dubious lineage in the Pups' menagerie are so gosh darn cute that the occasional obscenity comes off as droll rather than coarse.

The Pups should be allowed some latitude since their project--lampooning puppet shows--vastly expands and complicates the universe available for improvisation, compounding that form's usual challenges. And while this revue borrows some of its structure from the Muppet canon--notably a full-cast dance number featuring a tough-talking Kermit and a coda from "The Rainbow Connection"--the spontaneity generated by playing off audience suggestions makes for considerable originality and swift-paced action.

Puppet troupes successful enough to command large budgets sometimes forget that imagination is the key ingredient in this brand of entertainment. When a spectator's glasses case is transformed into a suitably shy participant, or an operator's fingers jutting through a large hole in a sock creature's nose become a set of teeth badly in need of braces, we respond to the primitive, playful creativity that lies at the heart of make-believe. These hand-jive wizards fashion magic from the most threadbare raw material.

--Mary Shen Barnidge


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