The Fortune Teller
nytheatre.com review by Kristin Skye Hoffmann
October 29, 2010
The ominous house surrounded by fallen leaves that sits comfortably on the stage of the Dorothy B. Williams Theatre looms over the audience and I knew immediately I was in for something special. This mansion is a piece of artwork on its own so when the original music by Danny Elfman cued up I couldn't wait to see what was waiting to be revealed within.
As it turns out I wasn't disappointed. Phantom Limb's The Fortune Teller is incredibly special. Co-creators Erik Sanko and Jessica Grindstaff have put together a real performance art exhibit. A marionette show about seven low-life individuals who gather at a deceased millionaire's mansion to hear his will read in order to possibly inherit some of his fortune might possibly seem like a story we've heard before, but never like this. Rather than a hand-out, what they each receive is a reading by a mysterious fortune teller who tells them the tale of their own demise and their connection to millionaire, whether they are paying attention or not. Each of their stories is cleverly narrated by Gavin Friday who has a spectacular vocal quality for a piece like this.
The marionettes, constructed by Sanko, are legitimate sculptures that are handled beautifully by the team of puppeteers. They have an eerie, off-putting quality that is just what these seedy characters deserve. The blacksmith, the hunter, the optician, the chef, the actor, the ventriloquist, and the banker each represents one of the seven deadly sins, none of them able to take any vice in moderation. The puppets are beautiful and frightening as we watch each of their fortunes pan out in the rooms of the mansion. The level of creativity with each character's demise is very high. Using humor, music, and some strategically placed violence, this show is hypnotic as well as entertaining.
Although the show is aimed at adults, there were a couple kids in the audience at the performance I saw. They seemed to deal with the dark themes and sometimes slow pace very well and seemed particularly enthusiastic by the end. So treat yourself, and maybe even the young ones, to an evening unlike many others and head over to HERE Arts Center for The Fortune Teller. If you're lucky, they may even let you take a look backstage where all the magic happens after the show.