In the Heart of the Beast puts on a cabaret as Minnesotan as a casserole
I’ve never counted out the plausibility of my last seconds on earth being in the presence of a puppet (re: R.L. Stine’s “Night of the Living Dummy”). So, when a bunch of “humans” sporting giant papier-mâché puppet heads pulled me into a “friendly” tango outside In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater (HOBT), I knew it might be the end.
The cabaret began with a bang of a walking stick rhythmically pounding the ground as the host crept onto the stage, growling his refrain, “Puppetry…puppetry…” Though incredibly daunting, he was not demeaning. He invited the audience to brainstorm puppet names as he fiercely fashioned a Cyclops puppet before our very eyes, silently telling us that with simple tools like duct tape and a snarly broom, we too could be puppeteers.
Knowing how to please a crowd, the first act starred a hodgepodge of talking dildos in a modern-day retelling of the medieval morality play “Everyman.” I wouldn’t have pegged dildos as a puppetry staple, but consider my standards raised (betcha thought I was going to say erected, didn’t ya?). The rest of the show proved just as whimsical—from an aerial dancer dangling herself from a tangle of chains in lieu of a marionette to Norwegian puppeteers banging hand drums against a wood stump as they yodeled war cries, I did not yawn once.
Though distinctly strange in its own right, HOBT kept it classically Minnesotan with a modest, lowbrow feel. And considering the all-too-real fact that puppets can be real assholes, I was impressed by their lack of pretentiousness. Moments like recognizing the aerial dancer as the one who poured my Grain Belt before the show and one act’s use of a 2002 model overhead projector to play with silly backdrops and silhouettes left me feeling warm and fuzzy, not unlike your classic puppet. HOBT’s mission is to “bring people together for the common good,” and through its engaging humility and ingenuity, it did just that. After all, what unites people like an advice-giving dildo?
Though distinctly strange in its own right, HOBT kept it classically Minnesotan with a modest, lowbrow feel.