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The bayou brats of Red Herring Street are little monsters, whether running riot in public parks or terrorizing their neighbors with pranks and thefts. They are also, I should mention, entirely two-dimensional—creations of the fertile imagination and animating expertise of filmmaker/designer Paul Barritt. So are the roaches and lizards skittering up the walls of their overcrowded public housing project and the elevator that rises past the flat of the man who has a horse for a roommate.
Not animated, however, is the idealistic young teacher who arrives on Red Herring Street with macaroni, glue, and the conviction that juvenile delinquency is a social problem best solved with “love, encouragement, and a bit of collage.” She’s fully three-dimensional, as are a dyspeptic narrator, a housing-project caretaker, a leopard-print lady who distributes gumdrops before the show, and the rest of the bayou’s variously idiosyncratic adult inhabitants, all played (as are a variety of musical instruments) by Esme Appleton, Lillian Henley, and Suzanne Andrade.
The opus of which they’re a part at Studio Theatre is The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, the latest creation of a cheeky British theater collective that calls itself 1927. The troupe takes some of its visual cues from films and art of that era, although it was founded just seven years ago. It combines a captivatingly odd aesthetic—part Monty Python, part Tim Burton, part Fritz Lang, and all astringently funny—with shrilly nasal vaudeville tunes and a passion for social commentary.
You can admire their commitment to this last passion—The Animals and Children tells an almost Orwellian tale of city fathers determined to tranquilize the children into submission and the subterfuges with which a few concerned residents combat that approach—and still think 1927’s style is more compelling than its substance. The look of the show really is astonishing—a caretaker pushing a real broom and stirring up animated clouds of dust, skeletons dancing, phones sprouting legs, shadows that stride around entirely independent of the people casting them. If Hollywood could mesh 2D and 3D this effectively, movie tickets might actually be worth the outrageous surcharges cineplexes are charging these days. The evening is, as a character says about something else at one point, “Art with a capital Arrrr.”