Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cashore Marionettes at the MAT

Sear these words into your memory: The Cashore Marionettes.

That way, you won’t miss one of the world’s best marionette acts the next time it’s in town.

At a full-house benefit performance for the Manitou Art Theater on March 7th, Joseph Cashore — assisted by his wife, Wilma — put on a dazzling display of skill and artistry in “Life in Motion,” a series of 13 short skits. The sheer engineering of Cashore’s puppets is incredible: It looked as though some of them had as many as 30 strings. An elephant’s trunk was capable of both picking up a log and blowing a feather; Old Mike, a homeless man, could wriggle his toe through the worn-out sole of his shoe.

But even more impressive was Cashore’s combination of observation and skill. When Maestro Janos Zelinka played, he looked like a living, 18-inch-tall violinist. When Cashore operated both mother and baby in “A Lullaby,” the two characters moved completely differently.

The exactness of the physical movements was matched by the characters’ realistic and nuanced personalities. Cashore is equally successful with comedy, as in the endless distractions from homework Sara finds in “The Scholar,” tragedy, as in Old Mike’s closing sigh of grief, and even satire, as in a performance by a heavy metal guitarist, complete with pelvic thrusts.

It’s the show’s balance of humor and pathos made it as fulfilling for former children as it was enchanting for children. Cashore is an example of great artistry found in an unexpected place.


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