Review: Cabinet of Curiosity Sees Sea Change at Chicago Puppet Theater Fest 

What I have always loved about every single Cabinet of Curiosity production is that I can’t tell you what it is about, but it holds tremendous meaning for me. Sea Change, their recent outdoor spectacle brought indoors for the winter at the Museum of Contemporary Art, is no exception. Metaphorical, referencing everything from Moby Dick to Greek mythology to Waiting for Godot, this incredibly talented all-female boat crew of singers, yarn spinners and movement artists is adrift at sea with only onions for sustenance. Well, there are a bubble piano, a fiddler and a cello, too. The evening is the perfect fable for our adriftness with Covid. Just like these characters, we cannot see the safe shore. The landscape/seascape is ever shifting with naught but our stories to comfort and entertain us. Like most of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival events, Sea Change has a very short run: only three showings.

Image courtesy Cabinet of Curiosity.

At the end of the hour-long adventure there’s a fire aboard, burning away much of what the characters were clutching. It’s the final letting go or passing away of the night, like the stories and skeleton fish and marvelous jellyfish that you get to see on this journey. The Cook/ Narrator assures us and the characters that even though it tastes like Change, We are Still Here. And that, my friends, is the best moral of our collective story.

Sea Change is a series of wild, strange puppet shows written by emerging female playwrights and lyricists Liz Chidester, Kasey Foster, Bethany Thomas and Lindsey Noel Whiting, with original music by Manae Hammond and Charlie Otto, additional text by Seth Bockley, and the searcher performed by Time Brickey. Giant puppets, mechanical devices, and original, live music are woven together to create the event.

Brief history sidebar: Frank Maugeri’s Cabinet of Curiosity is part of the deep soil in the garden of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. Festival founder and visionary artist Blair Thomas was one of the originators of dearly departed Redmoon Theatre, Maugeri’s previous artistic home. Maugeri’s brand of layered impressionistic narrative that draws from deep story is a homegrown Chicago art form providing a treasure trove for all. Savor this.

The last of three performances of Cabinet of Curiosity: Sea Change is at 2pm Saturday, January 22, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 205 E Pearson St. Tickets are $40. Recommended for age 8 and up.

The 4th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, running through January 30, transforms Chicago into the Puppetry Capital of the World, presenting over 100 performances of more than 20 national and local shows and events at venues around the city. Visit the website to see the full line-up and purchase tickets. Follow the festival on FacebookInstagramor Twitter, hashtag #ChiPuppetFest, for the latest updates.

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Angela Allyn

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