Writer: Spencer Lott
Director: Spencer Lott
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
There’s something about puppets, particularly puppets that look human. In the hands of a talented puppeteer and before a believing audience, the puppet takes on its own life, and it’s the life of Alzheimer’s patient James Blossom that is enthralling audiences at Dixon Place this month. James might be a small puppet, but his story fills the space with warmth and heart. With a phenomenal ensemble cast featuring Jamie Agnello, Chelsea Fryer, Sam Jay Gold, Robert M. Stevenson, and Rowan Magee, writer/director Spencer Lott’s Blossom explores what it means when our loved ones can no longer care for themselves, and what identity means as it begins to slip away.
Blossom’s imagined adventures are craftily depicted with various puppetry techniques, and the other residents of his managed care home are also portrayed by puppets. The puppeteers themselves are actors in the show, interacting with each other and the puppets with expert ease. The fact that the title character is a puppet and that live actors kneel or stoop to speak to him illustrates the dynamic that some take on with dementia patients, treating them like children even on their “good” days. The storytelling is tight, sharp, and moving. Issues of managed care such as a patient’s individuality, senior sex, and the demands and cost of nursing home facilities drive Blossom’s story forward, but never overshadow it.
This play is something special and rare. Not merely for the presence of exquisite puppets (though the funding from the Jim Henson Foundation is clearly well deserved), but for the journey that instantly engages the audience, for the tender and honest emotional life by both the human and puppet performers, and for the beauty that blossoms not only onstage, but with the audience as they venture out into the night on the Lower East Side. This is an experience not to be missed.
Runs until 24 September 2016 | Image: Maria Baranova