For my first visit to Burbank’s infamous Garry Marshall Theatre, I was completely stoked to be reunited with my old friend Chloe. Although Chloe is a number of years younger than me, we both grew up putting on community theatre together at the Theatre of Western Springs. As a recent DePaul Theatre School graduate, Chloe is out in LA for the summer working with the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company. When she reached out to me asking if we could spend the weekend acclimating her to the LA Theatre community, I could barely wait to show her some of my favorite venues as well as use her as an excuse to check out some I had been meaning to explore myself.
Our theatre itinerary for the weekend was incredibly diverse in content: Wood Boy Dog Fish by Chelsea Sutton at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank, Soft Power by David Henry Hwang (music and additional lyrics by Jeanine Tesori) at the Ahmanson and Bordertown by Culture Clast at the Pasadena Playhouse. As for our jumping off point, once you’ve seen a show by the award-winning Rogue Artists Ensemble you know there’s nothing like a Rogue Artists Ensemble production. It’s clear why Chelsea Sutton’s Wood Boy Dog Fish is back up from the Bootleg Theatre for a more traditional-space remount at the Garry Marshall. But don’t be fooled, there’s almost nothing traditional about this show. This contemporary adaptation of Pinocchio flipped on its backside caters to your whole emotional pallet, fully loaded with one surprise after the next. Sean T. Cawelti, Rogue Artist’s artistic director and unearthly talented puppet designer has established the company's already infamous reputation as the resident LA theatre community puppet masters. This holds incredibly strong in this production from costumes to craftsmanship to music & set design.
BLUE: Everything you're trying to ignore is always waiting inside.
Chloe and I had an amazingly wonderful time at this show. I feel like 2018 so far has proved to be a very innovative year for LA theatre, because I can once again say here on this site that you won't see any shows quite like this one elsewhere. The play features mature themes and dark elements seemingly more suitable for adults. It is scary and you will have a lot of feels! However the love was real in the audience that night because there was a kid in the second or third row who was so audibly loving everything about this show. This kid's reactions gave the audience permission to go there emotionally, receiving the humor, the drama and the weight of the story-world whole heartedly. It was a beautiful reminder that we can all benefit from a puppet show every once in a while, no matter how young or old we are. And trust me, that means a lot coming from someone who doesn’t like puppets!
As a whole I was really impressed with the way themes of Pinocchio (a story I wouldn't normally care for) were adapted into real-life, present-day, adult struggles in this fully-committed freak world. But I think that works because these struggles we face are life-long; they're there in childhood, they're there in adolescence, adulthood and seniority. And it's scary, but also kind of beautiful. Wood Boy Dog Fish runs at the Garry Marshall through Sunday June 24th. Get your tickets while you can and do bring friends for this immersive, riot of a fairytale. This show is sure to touch each audience member in their own special, personal way.