Anthony J. Piccione
New York Critic
Each year, the Jim Henson Foundation aims to keep their namesake’s legacy alive and well by granting an annual Family Grant to an organization creating innovative new examples of children’s storytelling through puppetry. One recent example is the latest production to be showcased at The Tank: “The Amazing Story Machine”, a new story that tells the story of how seven generations after the brothers Grimm changed children’s storytelling forever with their book of fairy tales, the cousins Grimm seek to do the same with their brand new invention…only for things to not go quite to their plan along the way.
At the beginning of the play, I admit to expecting a more tech-heavy production, with a very impressive combination of both scenic and projection designs helping to bring to life the so-called “amazing story machine”, along with shadow puppets. However, it is after the machine breaks down (as part of the plot) when the real performance begins, as the ensemble of performers are forced to use both puppets, as well as the seemingly ordinary objects surrounding them, to bring to life classic stories such as Hansel and Gretel, among others, all seemingly – judging by the cast message delivered toward the end – to give a positive message of encouraging children to be creative and use their imaginations.
It’s a very wonderful theme, and indeed, what better way to deliver such a message to young audiences than with the colorful props and set pieces that are used? The production aspects are truly stunning for an independent theatrical production such as this, and I applaud the people at Doppelskope for putting so much creative energy and hard-work into creative what may be the most visually impressive children’s show I’ve reviewed in NYC.
The four actors I saw – Christopher Scheer, Ora Fruchter, Caroline Lux, and Ali Dineen (the latter rotating on various nights with Eleonore Weill) – all proved to be an exceptional bunch, in terms of the physical comedy and lively enthusiasm they bring to the characters of the four cousins Grimm: Fritz, Fig, Charlotte, and Zimmer, helping to keep the mostly young audience interacting and following along the way, during the many humorous and often interactive portions of the show.
This unique spin on classic storytelling is an excellent example of experimentation in children’s theatre, a genre where successful innovation isn’t always easy. Furthermore, if the reaction from the dozens of young children in the audience is any indication, this is bound to be something that your kids will be unable to take their eyes off of. There’s still one more weekend of performances coming up this month, so be sure to take them to The Tank and treat them to what’s bound to be a very entertaining and engaging experience for the whole family.
THE AMAZING STORY MACHINE
“The Amazing Story Machine” stars Christopher Scheer, Ora Fruchter, Caroline Lux, Eleonore Weill and Ali Dineen.
“The Amazing Story Machine” features scenic design from Jacob Graham and AchesonWalsh Studios, sound and projection design from Jacob Graham, puppet design from Ora Fruchter, lighting design from Roman Reyes, costume design from Kate Kenney and Lex Dapo, production assistant Elizabeth Dapo, and board operators Roman Reyes and Alex Muino.
“The Amazing Story Machine” – presented by Doppelskope – runs at The Tank, located at 312 W 36th Street, New York, NY, throughout October on Saturdays and Sundays. Run time is 1 hr without intermission. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
For more information, please visit www.thetanknyc.org.