Wassup Rockers

Wakka Wakka’s Fabrik @ Urban Stages Theatre

I read in the NYT about this small production called Fabrik, which is a puppet show based on the life of an outspoken Norwegian Jew named Moritz Rabinowitz, and how he was targeted and captured by the Nazis during WWII.  I’m into serious puppetry and I knew it would be an inventive production (it was!!) so I made sure to go and check it out.  I found the play too short to get the full emotional effect of the story, but there were some really breathtaking aspects, particularly in the technical sense, that made this a good theatrical experience.

It’s unfortunate that I was very distracted during the show.  I was distracted by the puppeteer who handled the Rabinowitz puppet, because at least from what I could tell, he was very good-looking (the reviews say his name is David Arkema).  I was distracted by the music numbers, which were so lovely that I wanted to be swept away by the melodies to the point that I wasn’t paying as much attention to the lyrics.  I was distracted by my stuffed nose and my wish to cough and having to hold it in so the audience wouldn’t hate me forever.

In the span of just one hour, it goes from this lighthearted piece of a man who builds himself up from very humble beginnings, into really uncomfortable territory.  I knew the play was short but I was still not ready for it.  Like you want to laugh at the silly-looking Hitler puppet(!) but then, in this fantastic surreal dream-like sequence, the puppet literally makes as if he’s biting Rabinowitz.  By the ending sequence, you wish that Hitler’s bite had been the only problem, to see the Rabinowitz puppet humiliated and tortured and beaten, that was just really fucking sad.  I wish that it hadn’t all happened in such a blur and I hadn’t been so distracted…  I don’t know how to explain it, I must not make sense at all.

This production’s really to the testament of the puppet-maker and fellow performer, Kirjan Waage.  The puppets weren’t very realistic; that is, they weren’t anatomically correct miniatures of humans, and yet, at certain moments, the faces and body language of the puppets seemed to say it all.  Like there was this one brief section where Rabinowitz’s daughter Edith dances, and it was so beautiful!

I really wonder what Wakka Wakka will do next.  I definitely want to see it.

Some other things I liked about this production:

– All the actors had great voices.  The three of them, which included Gwendolyn Warnock, played a huge number of roles and used their voices to the greatest potential.

– The sound effects were really great!  It really facilitated getting the point across for certain things.  For ex: there’s a sequence where we see Rabinowitz taking a car ride.  Well Warnock showed us the trajectory of the car ride using a miniature city with a miniature car, Arkema stayed static with the Rabinowitz puppet and a car door.  Well since the puppet and door were static it was necessary for the car sounds to reflect all the speeding and stopping and whatever, and it was done in a very effective way.

– Crowd was good.  Several people, like me, came alone.  Except for the three annoying people sitting behind me.  And by “annoying” I mean “older adults who love to talk about how well-read they are.”  I mean, good for you, knowledge is power, blah blah.  I just didn’t like that they speaking loudly so everyone could hear how smart they were and I definitely did not like their whole spiel on how Jewish people are super powerful even though they may be only 2% of the US population.  Did I need to hear you riffing on stereotypes and saying “Give me a ‘-stein’ and I’ll give you a genius!”?  OY MUTHATOUCHIN’ VEY!  But the rest of the crowd was quite nice, really.

– I just want to say I’m baffled and pleasantly surprised at how this city, which is so in need of space, hides all these wonderful places.  Like who knew this tiny, 70-something person theater existed in the fashion district??  It was a great experience, like sharing a secret.


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