Salao--The Worst Kind of Unlucky, Redmoon Theater, at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The folks at Redmoon delight in creating puppet theater from unlikely sources: Moby-Dick, Frankenstein, the folk song "Frankie and Johnnie." A little more than two years ago they transformed Ernest Hemingway's short, simple The Old Man and the Sea into a short, simple, likable if rough-hewn 30-minute puppet piece.
Salao--the Worst Kind of Unlucky is as slick as the previous version of Hemingway's tale was herky-jerky, doubling the running time of the original and adding new scenes and performers, most of them masked manipulators of the Old Man puppet, his tiny skiff, or the fauna beneath his boat. Re-creating Hemingway's laconic prose, writer-directors Frank Maugeri and Jessica Thebus leave much of the tale unexplained.
How much you get out of the show depends on whether you know the original novel--or at least the 1958 movie. Those familiar with the story will appreciate the many clever touches Maugeri, Thebus, and company have given it, notably the beautiful carved puppet of the Old Man: puppet designers Lisa Barcy and Jesse Mooney-Bullock have distressed the wood to approximate the look of skin destroyed by too much time outdoors. And, as in the earlier version, a live actor is cast as the young boy no longer allowed to fish with the morbidly unlucky Old Man.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Brosilow.