Clowes Memorial Hall, directed by Patrick Bristow, Friday, Sept. 30
The worldwide phenomenon, Stuffed and Unstrung, offers two shows at once. Six Jim Henson puppeteers with hands held high in the air stare into monitors as a live-feed camera sends images of the puppets above their heads to two giant screens on stage. Meanwhile, host Patrick Bristow helms the ship, asking a boisterous audience for topics, locations and a variety of other scene-setting suggestions. The outcome is a mix of high and low comedy with a dash of puppet history throughout.
With answers like "Russia" or "Dance Moms," the puppeteers dive into the void. Whether the sketch achieves an actual punch line or falls apart into a chaotic mess of actors trying to communicate, their work succeeds in drawing out laughter. Neither cast nor crew attempt to mask mistakes, and in acknowledging the "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" atmosphere of the show, the ensemble can literally do no wrong. This is only accomplished by forging a strong connection to the audience at the outset, illustrated when, at the mere mention of Jim Henson's name, the audience erupted into cheers.
Vintage recreations of sketches, created by 20-year-olds Jim Henson and Frank Oz, pay homage to these Muppet masters. Though the show was for mature audiences only, as soon as the first puppet was donned everyone in the room collapsed into wonderful immaturity.