This weekend, the Land of the Nerds team (Captain Blackheart, Moon Sedai, Anexandros, and Minion) had the fantastic opportunity to witness a fantastic new piece of theatrical arts that rivals our excitement for Episode VII, Age of Ultron, Jem and the Holigrams, and Phoenix Comicon 2015 combined. We witnessed the World Premier performance of the new play “Puppet Wars: Episode IV: A Few Hope” written and directed by Shaun Michael McNamara and performed by the All Puppet Players.
But wait, Moon, you say. Puppets? Theater? Isn’t this something boring and silly and childish?
FOOLS! You are NEVER too old for Puppets. I say.
Because, if you couldn’t tell from the title, Puppet Wars is a parody play of the amazing epic film: Star Wars, a New Hope. We also had a chance to interview Shaun McNamara and a few of the puppeteers, tour the back-stage, and get a close-up look at what went into producing this show.
First, the as spoiler-free-as-we-can-be Review of Puppet Wars
Characters: Okay, I’m not going to step around the story here. This play is the story of Star Wars. It has the same characters: Leia (a green cat puppet) Luke (A yellow dog) Uncle Owen, R2D2, C3P0, Grand Moff Tarkin, Storm Troopers, Han, Chewy, and even Lord Vader. With only ten performers, the cast was able to reproduce the magic of the Original Star Wars film. McNamara changed things (as is required of any parody) but the changes are sensible. Jokes told are relevant to the 2015 audience member, the story operates acknowledging the storytelling flaws within A New Hope. It skirts the line between adult and child humor, and the cast acknowledges the children in the audience. The plot of the play makes jokes of Princess Leia-the-cat, of Luke-the-dog, of Hairy Chewbacca. The play addresses the question of “Who Shot First” and the ginormous ego of the Grand Moff.
Keeping it fresh: There are many unexpected moments in the play. There is an issue with one character’s voice. Another character is WAY more vocal than in the regular course of the film. Tarkin has a pet (and it’s not Vader). The puppets interact with the audience in a very specific and amazing scene. By using a cat Leia and a dog Luke, there were many animal-style jokes (laser pointers, hair balls, howling) that could be worked in.
Scenery/Props: I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the scenery for the show. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the All Puppet Players put together the scenery: An old, igloo-style dog house for Luke’s Tattooine home. A large PVC Pipe rigging for the Millennium Falcon. The Destruction of Alderaan. Gorgeous hand-made X-wings and Tie-fighters. Even the lightsabers, blasters, the garbage masher on the detention level and the mechanism to turn off the Death Star showed creative ingenuity.
Cast/Puppets: The cast included 10 actors, of which two were regular human actors: Darth Vader and C3PO. C3pO carried around R2, acting as the puppeteer for the beloved character. Vader as a human-sized actor was far more menacing than a small puppet version may have been. Leia as a Cat and Luke as a Dog were entertaining (Especially near the end, before the great battle). The Stormtroopers were simple, but a brilliant method for manufacturing mass “extra” characters for a puppet show. Han was a two-handed puppet, as was Chewbacca.
Perhaps the best performance of the show was done by the puppet known as Grand Moff Tarkin. He owned the stage, and of the puppets most resembled the original character.
What we didn’t like: Now, no review is complete without at least finding something we didn’t like. And this play we really had to look for something to dislike. So here are the things we (after a poll with the Land of Nerds staff who were in attendance) didn’t like:
Princess Leia, as the cat has a running gag of hairballs that goes on just a hair too long.
There is a song woven into the script that one of our moderators thought went on for too long.
And that was it. Honestly, if this is all we can find to dislike, then I think this speaks volumes of how well the performance went.
Mandatory Language: Land of the Nerds Media attended this performance for free, but not in exchange for review. Instead, we were given the tickets through donations via the Vet Tix program, which gives tickets to shows.
Chatting with the Director
Coming soon: an Interview with the Director!