In a recent appearance on Fox News, Twisted Sister frontman?turned?Off Broadway producer Dee Snider summed up Puppet Titus Andronicus—a low-budget, hipster, furry riff on Shakespeare’s bloodiest play—thusly: ”If you hate Shakespeare, you will love puppet Shakespeare.”
It’s a pretty good pitch. Puppet Shakespeare seems perfect for high school kids who think the Bard is uncool and inaccessible (note the light profanity, nipple rings, and frequent mentions of threesomes), who would never sit through three and a half hours of King Lear (Puppet Titus clocks in at about 100 minutes), or who can’t pay Broadway prices to see Orlando Bloom in Romeo and Juliet (tickets go for about $50, most of which seems to have gone toward silly string).
Even if you love Shakespeare, you’ll appreciate a few inventive touches: Aaron the Moor, who fathers a bastard son with the empress, becomes a puppet boar (designed by A.J. Cote); an opening musical number helpfully delivers much necessary exposition, including the warning: ”You’re gonna die/You’re gonna die/You’re gonna die/Almost everyone in this play is gonna die.” (Needless to say, the company has taken a great many liberties with Shakespeare’s text.)
But the entire proceedings are a little too loosey-goosey—to the point of appearing almost unrehearsed. At one point, Titus’ son, Lucius, cuts off his hand—which, miraculously, quickly reattaches itself! He’s a puppet. Can’t he get by with just one hand? And the jokes would be much funnier if the actors could keep straight faces. Granted, it must be tough to hold it together when the felt is flying. Yet what does it say when the character who gets most of the laughs—Lavinia, operated by Mindy Leanse—is the one who spends nearly the whole show with her tongue cut out? C+
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)