Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia has landed here, offering superb puppetry in a production presented by The Rose. The full title of this charming attraction is The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Favorites i.e. the Caterpillar is one of several elements. Three tales unfold, each taken from Carle’s books.
Two exceptional Canadian artists, Jackson Fowlow and Graeme Black Robinson manipulate a wide variety of figures in what is called “black light” puppetry. Dressed entirely in black, they move the figures against a black background, thereby becoming invisible. They create marvels with two wonderful, complex creatures, a chameleon and a caterpillar. The chameleon moves in delightful comic fashion given that its personality is jolly and entertaining. The caterpillar becomes a marvel of sinuous, beautiful grace. Most other visual elements are flat pieces which resemble Carle’s illustrations.
Everything about how this 45-minute offering looks and sounds is bound to appeal to children of all ages and to delight adults, despite the evident simplicity of each story. The multitude of figures gleam with shiny colors in constant motion. Even a three year old is likely to be fascinated despite not understanding the recorded narration. Slightly older children will be able to grasp the essence of what’s said, given that it sounds like a basic children’s book. For anyone above those ages, the collective essence has a modest but significant point. Each central creature yearns to expand beyond its own limitations and learns that being itself is the most satisfying thing of all.
A little cloud delights in deciding to resemble a wide array of things, as if Carle is saying that it is not we humans who imagine fantastic shapes, but, rather, the cloud creates the form. The chameleon enjoys taking on colors of everything it encounters. But, going to a zoo, it wishes to also have qualities of animals there. Given the chameleon’s ability to adapt features of those other things, this process becomes amusingly absurd. And the caterpillar has an insatiable appetite, causing it to become sick.
Composer Steven Naylor wrote friendly, elemental music for this show, in keeping with the overall concept. The program book also has information about the author which you can access yourself at eric-carle.com.
See the cloud soar. See the chameleon glow with color. See the caterpillar dance and sway. Thank you Mermaid. Thank you Mr. Carle.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Other Eric Carle Favorites continues through September 19 at The Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St. Omaha. Fri: 7 p.m. Sat: 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. Sun: 2 p.m. Tickets: $18. http://www.rosetheater.org