nytheatre.com review by Charles C Bales
August 14, 2013
A scene from Sure-Minded Uncertainties
Sure-Minded Uncertainties is a breathtakingly beautiful shadow play from Hudson Valley-based ensemble Cave Dogs. Creating an awesome spectacle with shadow puppetry, computer animation, and live performance, this is a truly one-of-a-kind show for all ages that is not to be missed.
Now playing at the Theater at the 14th Street Y in the East Village as part of FringeNYC 2013, Cave Dogs’ immensely talented interdisciplinary artists (dance, performance, music, lighting, prop design, costume, videography, etc.) have collaborated on a series of short stories that touch on themes including naturalism, industrialism, technology, and community building, among others.
Like a fever-pitched dream in black and white with bold flashes of color, amazing images are produced both low-tech (cardboard cutouts and flashlights) and high-tech (computer-generated) on a huge scrim that will lead many audience members to wonder, “How’d they do that?”
Shadow and light trick the eye with skewed perspectives such as a wire frame that transforms from toy-like dollhouse to life-size dwelling and mere saplings that become enormous trees. Performers too morph from tiny to huge, and back again, juxtaposed with the shadows and video with which they act and interact.
Gasps were heard throughout the 45-minute long performance as each new tableau appeared, accompanied by original music by Dean Jones, whose background in ethnomusicology is apparent in a soundtrack that blends a world music sensibility with folk, spoken word, and electronica.
The magic of Sure-Minded Uncertainties comes in part from its near wordlessness and thus all-encompassing universality, fitting for a show that has traveled both nationally and abroad. As written by Cave Dogs’ Maria Jansdotter-Farr, fantastical characters such as the Tree Puller, the Scientist, the Tech Man, and the Tailor represent not only occupations of the Everyman, but also various eras in time — past, present, and future.
My favorite is the Story Teller and her devastatingly gorgeous book of cutouts that frequently come alive. Backlit to highlight each page as it is dramatically flipped, the silhouetted images emerge as key points in the existential narrative that makes up Sure-Minded Uncertainties. Suzanne Stokes, the director of the show as well as the artistic director of Cave Dogs, portrays this omniscient and omnipotent chronicler.
The fabulous ensemble work of all seven of Cave Dogs’ members/puppeteers/collaborators cannot be praised enough. Although obviously huge amounts of time and effort have been spent creating the complexities of this extraordinary shadow play, the end result is seamless. Sure-Minded Uncertainties is a profound work of art.