Music Review: The Ringling International Arts Festival, Part II

 
 

There were many things I expected from the Ringling International Arts Festival: excitement, excellence, enjoyment and entertainment. What I didn’t expect was to be so convulsed with laughter I almost had an accident, and that’s what happened from the moment I arrived in the Circus Museum, took my seat in the middle of the second row (I’d been warned to be front and center) until I walked out — giggling, grinning and happy as a clam.

The Forman Brothers — there are two of them, plus a third gentleman who has the same last name but denies any kinship — serve their humor with dead-pan, spot-on accuracy, teasing (“Why are you late?” “You sit up there, you cannot see, but that is okay. We are boring.” “My brother, he speaks no English. I speak, well, some … ”), cajoling each other and exhorting, exhausting, imploring, wheedling, wooing and winning their audience.

The story their puppets tell is silly. It’s about a crooked chimney that falls down, the inept people who build it, a trio of tiny, impish kids who climb the walls. The bricks, lose their heads (literally, the little heads pop off and on with mind-numbing velocity) and appear and disappear so adroitly, we wonder if we imagined them in the first place. Then, just as we think we can laugh no harder, a puppeteer’s hand reaches into the tiny stage and eggs on an actor, replaces a head or whisks away a wayward ladder.
Oh — there are also small and large geese that flock and fly and chickens as cuddly and cute as Gus-Gus in Disney’s “Cinderella.”

Everyone is costumed à la Mozart opera, and the music they sing (in Czech) could easily have been written by any one of Bach’s many children. Their timing is exemplary. The Forman’s Baroque opera of puppets, accompanied by a bewigged keyboard player who alternates his sounds between an organ and harpsichord and the cloaked lighting director lurking behind him on the floor gave me the best fun I’ve had in theater in years. Salzburg Marionettes, move over.

— June LeBell

 

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