A plastic bag gracefully floating on a swirl of wind enters stage left. It is joined by another and they dance like coy lovers. Colorful fall leaves blow in and fedora hats are lost in the turbulence. The leaves and hats find a snug spot to land and awaken their new foundation. This enchanting set up is only the beginning of an evening marked by the delicate touch of a gentle breeze.
There are five puppeteers animating the objects in Wind Set Up but you only see four of them. The fifth puppeteer is the wind. This unseen hand is brought to life by the other four performers’ subtle gestures and lithe movements. But the wind is as much a character as it is a performer. It is passionate and driven. It wants to sweep away the old and bring in the new. It seeks balance and friendship while weaving through the lives of the show’s characters. They bond with it and yet they know they must let it go in the end. Though the wind is always with us, it is only a visitor in our lives.
Lake Simons’ new show is simply magical. She is a master of subtly and fluidity. Simons can indeed breathe life into anything she touches – a plastic bag, a newspaper, a pair of slacks. She infuses every motion with tenderness. Simons establishes a slow, focused pace at the top of the show and then allows the action to gradually rise and peak and then dissipate like a zephyr blowing over a hill. The music of her creative partner on this production, composer John Dyer, is actually a sixth character. Dyer’s beautiful and understated score floats on the wind just like everything else in this show. He sits off to one side all by himself, lightly tapping percussion instruments, blowing into flutes or strumming his electric guitar. He electronically loops short melodies so he can pick up other instruments and create layers of sounds that uplift the action on stage. The overall effect is dreamlike and emotive.
The puppeteers, Simons, Kiyoko Kashiwagi, Yoko Myoi and Christopher Williams, move in the space as if they are gliding. This production is as much a physical theatre piece, with a great deal of dance and stylized movement, as it is a puppet show. They all have extraordinary physical agility as well as the ability to animate the show’s various objects. I particularly enjoyed the elegant movements that pull a drifting shirt and pants on to Williams making him their puppet.
Wind Set Up is a soaring personification of the wind and how it relates to us…and how we relate to it. The creative team of Simons and Dyer never fail to inspire. It’s a short run, five nights, so catch it before it blows away.