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A CurtainUp Review
Baby Universe: A Puppet Odyssey

I have given everything. There's nothing left.— Sun
Baby Universe
Baby Universe
(Photo: Jim Baldassare )
If you think puppet entertainment is limited to the retelling of fairytales or teaching preschoolers the alphabet, think again. Wakka Wakka's new show, Baby Universe: A Puppet Odyssey, uses a variety of puppets (as well as masks, video projections and a space age score) to tell the story of how the dying universe is reborn.

Baby Universe is written and directed by Wakka Wakka members Kirjan Waage and Gwendolyn Warnock. The puppets range from giant almost bunraku style to hand and rod. They are all remarkably expressive.

The story is based on what we currently believe to be scientific fact. In a few billion years the sun will become a red giant and swallow up the earth along with our entire solar system. This is obviously not an immediately threat, but hey, it never hurts to be prepared.

In fact, scientists in Japan and Switzerland believe they can create macro black holes and baby universes that might provide an escape route in the face of total destruction. Waka Wakka sets Baby Universe at some time in the far distant future when mankind, faced with total annihilation, is searching furiously to create such a universe as the sun makes its devastating way from mercury to the outer planets.

The scientists create baby universes and place them with lonely spinsters who try to nurse them to maturity, at which time one of the the baby universes will hopefully produce a planet to replace earth. All these attempts end in failure until one mother manages to save a viable baby universe. She watches over the little creature, making sure he wears his hat at all times and gets to all of his doctor's appointments, little realizing that like an embryo created solely for its stem cells, he will never be given a chance to live to maturity.

Like many of the more ambitious science fiction stories, Baby Universe is filled with unanswerable theological and philosophical questions. Can and should human beings play God? Why do we destroy our saviors? What is the nature of salvation? But here all these esoteric questions are brought to life in a blaze of color and sound. The Sun is a gangly giant who walks with a cane. The planets all come equipped with their attributes. Saturn has its rings. Mars is bright red. Mercury is a tiny little guy. Earth is a blue lady.

Though Baby Universe is visually and aurally appealing, the story is typically end of the universe science fiction. Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer may have been at the top of the genre with their classic novels When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide. Only they didn't use puppets. Which leaves one hoping that the very talented Wakka Wakka company's next production will bring them back down to earth.

For a look at how Wakka Wakka mixed earthbound reality with fantasy (and, of course, puppets), see the review of their last production, Fabrik.

Baby Universe: A Puppet Odyssey
Written and Directed by Kirjan Waage and Gwendolyn Warmock
Baruch Performing Arts Center 55 Lexington Avenue 212-352-3101
Voices of Main Puppets: Peter Russo (Baby Universe), Gwendolyn Warnock (Mother), Andrew Manjuck ((Sun, Host of Apocalypse Radio, Scientist 2), Kirjan Waage (Moon, Mercury, Scientist 1)
Original Puppets: Jan Waage
Costume Design & Masks: Gwendolyn Warnock
Composer: Lars Petter Hagen
Video Artist: Naho Taruishi
Lighting Design: Kate Leahy
Sound Design: Brett Jarvis
Set Design: Wakka Wakka & Jay Wang
From 12/01/10; closing 1/09/11
Ticket Price: $20.00 - $30.00
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Dec. 8, 2010
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