By Joseph Szalinski
Uncumber Theatrics is bringing a macabre kind of dinner theater to audiences at Bitz Opera Factory in the Strip District that ditches the pasta for Pesta and has humans as the meal in question in their innovative show, Wee Beasties.
The narrative follows little ill Louise and her mother’s at-home doctor appointments, along with a peppering of brief scenes of fleas reveling in the glory of their insatiable appetites. Infested with meditations on health, society, and humanizing the sick in medicine, as well as a cast of chronically creepy characters, this production packs plenty of interesting elements into its 45-minute runtime. Employing puppetry, perspective, and phenomenal performers, this shadow play is something even Plato would be mesmerized by.
Jalina McClarin voices Louise, an unsettling portrayal complemented by the chilling puppeteering of Kate Hagerty, tearfully tended to by her despondent and paranoid Mother (Bayley Brown). Christine Starkey periodically haunts the story as The Monster, a take on Pesta, the Scandinavian Goddess of Disease. Liam Gannon is great as the dismissive and distant Doctor who performs regular check-ups and accepts the risks that pave the way to progress.
It’s the fleas that give the most disgusting yet delightful performance(s), however, whether that is in scenes where they are the focus, or ones in which they integrate into situations peopled by pitiful persons.
Visuals are what allow this show to be as bizarre and brilliant as it is. While flesh-and-bone cast members are rendered shadows, doing so enables them to grow and shrink in size effortlessly, and enables them to believably co-exist in a realm with ravenous bugs that do the same. Plastered onto three of the four sides of the tent that audience members are seated inside, the drama unfolds around them, lending cinematic qualities to the immersive experience.
Should anyone show up early, there is also a flea circus near the entrance of the venue that boasts Christian Allen Diaz as the Barker, an engrossing showman who invites participants to assist him in putting on his itchy carnival. After the amusing “appetizer,” he ushers the compact crowd upstairs to intimate seating.
Staging something this beautifully strange is quite an undertaking. It’s an unorthodox piece of theatre that is as historical and alien as it is modern and familiar. Anyone curious enough to check it out will be granted an opportunity to enjoy an enjoyably unusual show that’ll stick with them for some time.
Wee Beasties runs from August 20, August 27 at Bitz Opera Factory in the Strip District. For additional details, click here.