Murry Bergtraum High School, Grade 12
There's a first time for everything, and today I killed three birds with one stone: It was my first time on a cruise, my first rock concert and my first puppet show. As I walked into Ars Nova's space to see JOLLYSHIP: The Whiz Bang, I have to admit I was a little skeptical that all three of these things would work together. But I wouldn't trade this experience for the world.
As I took my seat, I noticed that the inside of the theatre was constructed like the insides of a ship in which the front was both the nose of the ship and also the inside of a cabin. With the precise construction of the set and the flowing of the music, the audience was able to get a sense of what the show would be about. One thing led to another, and soon we all were sailing into the sunset in search of the party island.
An Ars Nova production directed by Sam Gold, JOLLYSHIP depicts the lives of pirates who patrol the sea. This tested the imagination of the creators, Nick Jones and Raja Azar, but they've succeeded in portraying the lives of pirates through puppetry with raw and uncut humor. In every other moment of the show, the concept of being a pirate is attacked and satirized.
If you closed your eyes right now and tried to picture a pirate, you might go to the images from The Pirates of the Caribbean: tough-looking guys with braids and a mouth full of missing teeth, complimented with a dirty-looking face and a missing leg.JOLLYSHIP, on the other hand, is full of misfits: The captain is green guy whose alternate sexuality surfaces when he's drunk; there's a circus strongman who loves to whip people; the cabin boy is a clown; a wise old man wears a rain coat and predicts storms; there's a crab who wants to be a parrot. Oh, and there's also a rock band. These non-stereotypical shipmates create a weird but strong chemistry.
The story revolves around an array of problems stemming from the lost hope of the crew and the misguidance of the Captain Clamp, masterfully played by lead singer Nick Jones. Add to that the general grief for a dead cabin boy and a brewing storm, and the shipmates are on the verge of mutiny.
The puppeteers do an absolutely perfect job of instilling life into the puppets, making them convincingly insane and loveable. It's almost as if the puppet and puppeteer were spiritually connected; all their movements seem identical. Despite the puppets' inability to make facial expressions to help convey certain emotions, these were evident on the actors' faces.
In addition to the dialogue, music plays an important role in the show's success. Every song is packed with undeniable energy, forcing the audience to tap their fingers and bop their heads. This was hands down some of the best music I've heard. The guitars were electrifying, the keyboards were rhythmic, and the drums were LOUD (in a good way). I would totally recommend this show to everyone; a rock puppet-show cruise is something simply everyone must experience.
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