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This show is a ‘beauty’

for The Brooklyn Paper
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I bring great news from the marionette center of Brooklyn: Puppetworks is back.

Those of us who fancy ourselves keepers of puppetry standards — and, no, I am not talking about you, Webber Torkgensen, you dilettante! — were appalled by this venerable theater’s recent production of “Hansel and Gretel.” (I was so stunned by its mirthlessness that I headlined my rapier critique of it, “Hansel and Regretal.”)

Thankfully, Puppetworks has fully redeemed itself with its new “Sleeping Beauty,” now playing Saturdays and Sundays through April 5.

I’ll dispense with the plot summary — Mr. Disney has rendered that moot — but suffice it to say that puppet master Ronny Wasserstrom exceed all of his prior marionette efforts by turning in an effervescent performance.

It didn’t start out that way. I’ll admit, Wasserstrom’s fingers sometimes exhibit a sympathy towards the hapless, and his Balthazar was yet another in a line of babbling, bouncing side characters.

But once Balthazar exited stage right, Wasserstrom came alive. His portrayal of the fairy Brunhilda, for example, rendered her inability to fly in a comic, slapstick way.

Better still was the cartoonish villainy of his Wurtzel, the fairy who first tricks her way into the castle, puts a curse on the baby Princess Aurora, then re-appears 16 years later to set the curse into motion.

Where lesser puppeteers might have resorted to mere shrieking and witchy laughter, Wasserstrom makes Wurtzel practically dance the mazurka over the sleeping beauty, at one point rotating the puppet’s hips and buttocks in the kind of celebration one might see in a National Football League end zone.

It was a true delight.

Clearly, Wasserstrom sides with the villains in this most-cloying of fairy tales. Clothilda, the queen of the fairies, comes off as a do-nothing failure who can’t outsmart Wurtzel because she keeps leaving at the wrong times; King Florestan the Good is a goody-goody; Pippin, the dog who is supposed to protect the teenage princess, barks like a little girl; and Princess Aurora is so gullible that she can’t quite figure out that Wurtzel is up to no good.

When puppetry and craftsmanship work in such joyful tandem, the results are spectacular.

“Sleeping Beauty,” will run every Saturday and Sunday, through April 5, plus two Monday, Jan. 19 performances, at 12:30 and 2:30 pm at Puppetworks [338 Sixth Ave., at Fourth Street in Park Slope, (718) 965-3391]. Tickets are $8 for adults and $7 for kids. Call for reservations or visit www.puppetworks.org.

Updated 5:10 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

ronny from park slope says:
this is Mr Wasserstrom,
I am the puppeteer you reviewed for sleeping beauty. I am now in a grown up puppet play at LaMamma called "The Devil You Know", based on The Devil and Daniel Webster. I could've played the Devil, but chose Daniel Webster. You claim I like villainous characters, or play them better, maybe this is true, maybe not. I think I try to play who I am given to the best of my abilities. I know I have warm memories of playing a santa claus marionette at macys, and that Daniel is a goody good (not even a drinker in this production) but I like him because he is so bombastic.
Thank you for the kind words of your review, the staff at
puppetworks were sure you were on my payroll (maybe you are a distant relation?)
I encourage you to see "The Devil You Know",( so far it's been sold out,) so you can give me your honest opinion.
Ronny

Jan. 2, 2010, 11:32 pm

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