Friday, April 24, 2009

The Colonists: unconventional puppets speak volumes without words

By Greg Hanlon

(Published in the 4.23 issue of 24/Seven)

The creators of the smash-hit puppet-show “Jollyship the Whiz-Bang” are back with their next zany and wonderfully imaginative visual fantasy, replete with the music, pyrotechnics, and electrically enhanced puppets.

“The Colonists,” produced by Terrible Baby Theater Co., premiered at Williamsburg’s Brick Theater on April 26 and runs twice every Sunday through May 24.

If the description at the beginning of this article does not paint a clear portrait, it is because the whimsical show is all but impossible to encapsulate in words. Perhaps this is because it doesn’t have any words itself, having been originally conceived for a puppet-show festival in Bangkok, where much of the audience was not likely to understand English.

Rather than words, the show uses the movement of the puppets and an eclectic blend of music directed by Raja Azar to achieve a surprising emotional power. Its somewhat incidental plot revolves around an earthworm with dreams of flying, and a forest overrun by an alien insect force (the titular colonists). It is played out in a series of vignettes in the style of a nature documentary.

“It’s like a ballet with puppets,” described Nick Jones, a founder of Terrible Baby Theater Co. who developed the show with Azar.

Punctuating the show are numerous flash paper explosions, along with a “swordfight” between bees with electrical stingers powered by car batteries and motor-powered mechanical flapping wings. The puppets, constructed with a combination of foam and plastic molding, were made by renowned puppet designer Robin Frohardt, and are operated by puppeteers in beekeeping suits.
“I can’t exactly say it’s high-tech, but we’re trying to take puppetry from the most basic and have some nice effects,” said Jones.

Jones and Azar also collaborated on “Jollyship the Whiz-Bang,” the smash-hit that premiered last summer at Manhattan’s Ars Nova and received widespread critical praise.

Like “The Colonists,” “Jollyship” eludes conventional explanation. In his review of the show, Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times wrote:
“Merely describing what goes on in this show pirate-themed concoction is difficult, because unless you’ve seen the precursors by this troupe you’ve probably never seen anything like it. But the next step for a reviewer, analyzing why it all works so perfectly – well, time to fall back on the old ‘you had to have been there.’”

“The Colonists” will run every Sunday from April 26 through May 24 at the Brick Theater 575 Metropolitan Avenue. Shows are at 3 and 7 p.m., and tickets are $15.

To order tickets, go to, call 718-907-6189, or email


Copyright © 2009 All rights reserved

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP