Behind the Lid

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

If nothing else, this review should encourage lovers of puppetry to check out Basil Twist’s enchanting handiwork in Behind the Lid—but chances are they already know about it. Puppet fans are a dedicated bunch. But even if you have just a passing interest in the world of Bunraku, marionettes and the like, you may want to reserve one of the 18 seats available at each performance of this intriguing, intimate tribute to Lee Nagrin.

Cocreated by Twist (the phantasmagoric wizard behind Symphony Fantastique) and Nagrin (who died June 7 during previews), Behind the Lid unfolds as a succession of dreamy tableaux staged in the close confines of this venue—Nagrin’s converted studio. This gentle production blends recorded voices, video projection and Nagrin’s poetic text in a cryptic, disorienting trip through her unique sensibility. Growing up in 1940s America, she was deeply affected by Native American mythology, as well as reports of the Holocaust and the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Present in the show through aforementioned recordings and video, Nagrin comes across as an enigmatic, mystical earth mother.

Twist orchestrates several remarkable sequences: a grotesque, jigging Einstein; a horrifyingly beautiful mushroom cloud made of satiny fabric; and a fearsome talking totem pole. In one of the most striking segments, a puppet version of Nagrin has a blank face, on which is projected the actual artist reminiscing about Jerzy Grotowski and Joseph Chaikin. The melding of Nagrin’s image and Twist’s puppetry is indescribably touching and apt.—David Cote

Silver Whale Gallery . By Lee Nagrin and Basil Twist. Dir. Twist. With ensemble cast. 1hr 30mins. No intermission.