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It’s a shame that Adjusting the Volume wasn’t staged while school was still in session. This artistic blind date is a cute, 30-minute piece that wouldn’t make for a bad elementary-school field trip. It’s a good introduction to puppetry that’s not just for toddlers.
The performance begins with a woman drawing a chair on paper, which is taped to a screen. The screen is illuminated to reveal a chair in front of two paintings in a museum. Then the puppetry begins. We meet a cute elderly couple; two people in their early 20s, one of whom is using every buzz word he can think of to impress the other; and a child who just wants to get out of there. The paintings in the museum consistently change, from classic works to photos of cats. After we leave the museum, the screen turns to yellow. A plastic bag emerges. The bag comes to life, evolving with the colors on the screen and the music being played. The lights go out and you’re sitting there with a smile on your face.
The work is about the little things in life. It’s open for interpretation. This was well-illustrated during the post-show Q and A. Audience members asked questions about specific themes the artists were trying to convey. The artists, puppeteer Cecilia Cackley, visual artist Lee Gainer, and musician Haskell Small, actually had no real themes or goals. They wanted to create a piece that about everyday life and they succeeded. For example, Gainer was in charge of choosing the artwork projected in the frames on the screen. She set up a website where people could vote on the work they preferred, à la hotornot.com. Why? Just because. That attitude made this performance quite enjoyable.
Apparantly, I am a big fan of puppets, or at least puppeteer Cecilia Cackley. She was able to convey a wide array of emotions using a plastic bag. At times it was a scared child, others an adventurous cat, and sometimes an annoying insect. Her interplay with Small was well-done and necessary. If they used a pre-recorded piece things might have gotten really boring. If you have children who are not yet cynical and can sit through silent movies, take them to this performance.
“Adjusting the Volume” runs June 19 at 3 p.m., June 25 at 6 p.m., and July 2 at 3 p.m. at Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. $10.