confession: last friday, i enjoyed a puppet show.
now believe me when i say that’s a sentence i never thought i’d utter, but when the puppet in question is joey, enchanting four-legged star of broadway’s war horse, it’s hard not to turn that “neigh” into a yay.
arriving at the magical vivian beaumont theater at lincoln center had this lifelong new yorker experiencing unfamiliar waves of “wait, i do heart new york” sentiment pumping from the jump. inside, i took my seat in the loge’s last row and briefly pondered if i shouldn’t have just rented the spielberg blockbuster of the same name. joey enters stage left and all aforementioned trepidation? out the window. as ben brantley from the new york times wrote, “nothing on screen could imitate the specific thrill of watching joey take on substance and soul, out of disparate artificial parts, before our eyes.” and how. i swear those eyes were less dead than those of certain starlets or, um, lana del ray.
set in europe during world war i, war horse is a truly moving story of friendship and a hopeful journey against all odds (i’ve always loved me a war yarn). young albert enlists to serve after his beloved joey is sold to the british cavalry. will they find their way back together? you’re in for a rollercoaster of emotions and i really enjoyed the ride. watching the horses was far and away my favorite thing about the production, followed closely by the scene-stealing puppet-goose. that rogue!
this spirited puppetry is the handiwork of the talented handspring puppet company, based in cape town. from my perch i was mesmerized. it was like watching a beautifully choreographed ballet, the way the actors worked each piece of a life-sized animal jigsaw, hunched in the underbelly of the beast as it were.
even during the plot-thin middle, i could not take my eyes off the horse, or rather, the hands that steered this sculpture around the stage so unbelievably believably. but actually, about that middle bit… i don’t really know what happened at the beginning of act 2, lost in worry as i was about these actors and their guaranteed chiropractor-filled futures, hunched under that heavy puppetry curtain call after curtain call. then i worried about why i cared. and then i quickly dropped that thread when i convinced myself i saw kate bosworth sitting front row, and how she probably came straight from her last fashion week show (also in lincoln center; probably was not her).
aaaannd then i was back. reunited just like… wait, just see the play. or the movie. but i recommend the play. it was really very beautiful.