An explosion; a blinding light. A new universe is born, the best hope for the remnant of mankind in a dystopian future.
The inventive Norwegian-American group Wakka Wakka is back, this time with more puppets and puppeteers and a bigger story to tell than in their acclaimed Fabrik: The Legend of M. Rabinowitz, which in 2008 received a Drama Desk nomination in the Unique Theatrical Experience category.
Wakka Wakka certainly does go its own way. Its menagerie of marvelous puppets includes tiny creatures and toys operated at the end of wires, life-size puppets held by puppeteers, a big puppet made out of a shambling conglomeration of person and props, and the list goes on. Adding to the magic are pinpoint lighting, explosive sounds, buzzsaw music, whimsical projections, clever (even cinematic) use of scale, and—easy to glide over in such a context—effective acting.
Baby Universe's mother
The cosmically surreal story takes place in a grim future where an expanding Sun is rapidly baking the Earth to a crisp. Huddled underground, the surviving humans reach out to the stars for a new Earth to settle, but not in the expected way. Rather than straightforwardly attempting the kind of space travel we've read about in countless science fiction tales, their scientists are attempting to create and nurture their own brand-new universe into which they can escape. Their latest hope: an adorable infant universe.
The puppet is voiced by Peter Russo. I mention that not because Mr. Russo stands out—the cast is uniformly strong—but because this troupe stresses seamless immersiveness rather than star turns, not even crediting the puppeteers as such in the program. What they do so well is plunge us into wildly imaginative universes. And this one is a universe of universes, including ones that haven't quite made it—baby universes that have started promisingly but died, with malformed lungs and weak hearts, in spite of their adoptive mothers' love. Until now.