According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Fortune Teller

How's this for a series of unfortunate events? Seven people walk into a room only to recieve visions of their impending deaths--but don't worry, they're puppets, and their deaths are more clever than gruesome. All this, plus an original Danny Elfman score: it's like getting your poison-coated cake and eating it too!

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Just in time for Halloween, HERE Arts Center has put together the delightfully evil new show The Fortune Teller. It’s the equivalent of seeing several short episodes of Tales from the Crypt, only performed by marionettes—creepy in of itself—and scored by Danny Elfman, channeling the sinister mystery of Batman or The Nightmare Before Christmas. Though the show is performed in miniature, it is amplified by the marvelous gothic dollhouse of a set, and given substance by the creaking mechanical sound effects. These elements mask the triteness of the plot and the sloppiness of some of the puppetry, but considering that The Fortune Teller gets the majority of its laughs from one-liners, this simplicity helps to sustain the illusion.

The story, created by Erik Sanko and narrated (on tape, unfortunately) by Gavin Friday, involves a midnight gathering of various evil men who stand to inherit a fortune. However, as the fortune teller in question attempts to discern their fate, Death keeps leaping to the forefront, a jumpy, excitable force that causes the hunter to be impaled upon a mounted rhinoceros’s horn, makes a chef choke on a wishbone (“Be careful what you wish for”), and poisons a ventriloquist (“Everybody just thought he was a bad ventriloquist”). The fortuneteller discerns an unusual death for each of the characters—like a simpler version of the Final Destination series—and the delight of the show comes from watching these evil people come to the end of their rope (literally). It’s not high drama, but it is entertainment without consequences (unless you have an issue with puppet exploitation). The material’s appropriate for kids too—assuming they’ve been raised on Gorey or Snicket—The Fortune Teller is a series of unfortunate events with little moral twists.

For all the clever devices, Elfman’s music remains the lynchpin of the performance, and those who are fans of his work will find many references to his classic scores. The lethal curiosity of his reverberant tunes is what keeps us watching, even when the puppets repeat themselves (which isn’t often). Here’s a prediction for you: go see The Fortune Teller, and you’ll both have a good time and see something new.

HERE Arts Center (145 Avenue of the Americas)
Tickets (212-352-3101): $20.00
(Through 11/5): Thursday-Monday @ 7:00

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