Sure, on paper, the idea of a post-apocalyptic drama that blends puppets, aerialists and a live score might sound a tad unsettling. But if you were to write off Iminami, PuppeTyranny’s latest creation, based solely on its description, you’d be missing out one of those rare Fringe gems that remind you why the festival is so awesome in the first place.
From the script to the score, every detail of this indie production finds a perfect balance between quirky and clever. In fact, there isn’t even a single flaw worth noting. The funky tunes, chintzy props, exaggerated acting, psychedelic videos, sporadic puppet appearances—it all just works.
The story is split between two worlds: Earth, in the wake of a devastating iminami (also known as a mega-tsunami), and the Moon, where scientists were smart enough to escape to. As illustrated through the lives of two young female leads, Rene Junot and “Interplanet” Janet, basically, both worlds suck. Here on Earth, Rene and her family are one of millions routinely shoveling pills down their gullets by the fistful in order to cope with a mysterious post-iminami mental illness. This has made her father, CEO of Junot Pharmaceuticals, a very powerful man. Meanwhile, as the first and only Moon-baby, Janet struggles to accept a life of barren trees and eventually, complete solitude.
Needless to say, there’s some pretty serious connotations behind all the googly-eyed puppets.
With the exception of local circus performer and daredevil Mary Wood, who makes her first foray into acting as Janet (all whilst dangling from aerial fabric), the entire five-member cast works overtime, serving as both the puppeteers and stagehands. Making this an even more impressive fete: The show features a total of 15 scenes across two acts. So yeah, they really didn’t have a moment to breathe.
Making her third Fringe appearance with the company, Kate Black-Regan is super enjoyable to watch as the young Rene, maybe because she’s actually more convincing as a teenager than an adult. Then there’s her parents: Whether playing a creepy pill-pusher or breathing life into a stuffed alien with a bondage fetish, veteran local actor and improv comedian Rob Cutler was stellar. As for his batshit crazy wife, Angela Smith completely nailed the “Susie Homemaker from Hell” role. Her constant leaps off the deep end also proved to be a continual source of laughs.
Oddly enough, most of the characters and scenarios in Iminami were actually first conceived by the Philly-based rock band Voodoo Economics, with the story having played out across their two full-length albums. The fact that writer and director C.W Kennedy was able to not only see the potential in their absurd tale, but then craft it into such a fun and intelligible play is a true sign of pure genius.
Through Sept. 21, 8pm. $10. Greensaw Design, 820 N. Fourth St. 215.389.0786. greensawdesign.com