Blind Summit, the British puppet theater company, first brought “The Table” to the stage of Chicago Shakespeare Theater Upstairs in Oct. 2013, and I’ve been delighting in the memory of it ever since. Happily, the many people unable to nab a ticket to that initial engagement can now catch it in its return visit (through Jan. 25) as part of the ongoing Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival.
‘THE TABLE’ HIGHLY RECOMMENDED When: Through Jan. 25 Where: Blind Summit at Chicago Shakespeare Upstairs, 800 E. Grand on Navy Pier Tickets: $20-$35 Info: (312) 595-5600; http://www.chicagoshakes.com Run time: 75 minutes with no intermission
The piece involves three brilliantly agile puppeteer-actors, and a bare wooden table that becomes the stage for Moses — a twiggy-legged cloth figure with a cardboard head that suggests Freud as much as the Old Testament prophet. And as devised by Blind Summit, the work is a brainy and altogether hilarious meditation on everything from the art of puppetry itself to Moses’s relationship with God (as well as the audience at hand).
The only major change this time around is that Laura Caldow is now the female puppeteer who performs the physically daunting (almost literally back-breaking) task of operating Moses’ feet. (And he is quite the exuberant dancer.) Otherwise, Mark Down remains the mesmerizing narrator (as well as the show’s director and manipulator of the head and left arm), while Sean Garrett, an impish giggler, operates the puppet’s right arm and very expressive “bum.”
The overall scenario seems to have been goosed up just a bit, so that Moses’ life force (he is a bit of a dirty old man, even as he lives out his final hours at the age of 120), is even more emphatic. The truth is, you can’t keep your eyes off this guy. And that’s a testament to both Moses and the principal of focus so crucial to puppetry.
Meanwhile, I stand by every word of my original review. If you need to know more, here it is: