A Shoe for Your Foot
Paperhand Puppet Intervention
Through Sept. 3 at UNC-CH’s Forest Theatre, Sept. 7-8 at N.C. Museum of Art

Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s newest show, A Shoe for Your Foot, upholds the group’s idealistic and creative vision by seeking simplicity in an otherwise chaotic and complex world. In the program notes, co-creator Donovan Zimmerman writes, “The beauty of the everyday is illustrated, simply, in an old shoe.”

Ironically, this alliance with simplicity creates something of a void that is usually filled with Paperhand Puppet’s dazzle and splendor. Still, A Shoe for Your Foot is more cohesive than their 2005 show (which was revived in Raleigh last spring), The Garden of the Wild, because Paperhand simplified: The new show revolves around a few basic color schemes, with a message that was introduced at the beginning and concluded nicely at the end. Garden, on the other hand, was a smorgasbord of puppetry with myriad colors and motivations that did not necessarily make sense next to one another, and the theme was not really clarified until the end, making it feel like an afterthought.

However, the simplicity of A Shoe for Your Footwhile almost successfully portrayed as a choice in line with the show’s themecomes at a price. There are fewer puppets, less color and less movement. Although this show has only four noteworthy puppets, the few displayed in Shoe are up to par (Paperhand is undeniably talented at its craft), including an impressive white and silver owl, a majestic moose and a heron. There are also ram-people farmers who lead a great bull around the show. A gigantic Mother Earth puppet seen at the end of the show is equally impressive, enveloping everything on stage in the great expanse of her embrace.

A Shoe for Your Foot was filled with waiting, watching and anticipating. One striking sequence concerns a colony of box-headed business people who mimic each other and collectively invent the act of building. However, the initial originality shrivels toward the end of the scene when one box-man opens a box from which a daisy grows. Unsurprisingly, the box man discards his box-head and square business clothes, thus becoming a “real” human. From this point, the scene is no longer fun to watch, as all the box people become human and frolic about the stage with an almost obnoxious level of gaiety.

On the other hand, A Shoe for Your Foot offers plenty to get excited about: well-crafted puppets, a humble message, kaleidoscopic live music and Paperhand’s everlasting effervescence. One leaves Shoe wishing for this show’s cohesive message and themes to be combined with the dazzling splendor of their 2005 show.

Urinetown: The Musical
Raleigh Little Theatre
Through Aug. 26

The crowning achievement of Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of Urinetown: The Musical is its unflagging playfulness. Filled with satirical dialogue, Urinetown‘s cleverness is a part of its fun. Set in a Gotham-esque town sometime after a fictional period known as “The Stink Years,” the musical comedy created by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann offers audiences a poignant message using green topics and hilariously bleak realism. When faced with problems of limited resources, the ever-needy townspeople are forced by the greedy entrepreneurs at Urine Good Company to pay a fee for the essential act of peeing.

In addition to the inherent playfulness of the original script, Raleigh Little Theatre does a grand job of contributing its own subtle tricks and constant enthusiasm. When the rebellious townspeople don armbands and stand off against the greedy company, Urinetown‘s precocious ragamuffin Little Sally (Melissa Patterson) puts an armband on her stuffed rabbit doll and holds him high above the crowd in a righteous pose to face down the bad guys. The cast’s vivacity reveals itself through their catchy dance numbers and hilarious subtletiesat one point Cherryholmes mimics a bull, charging the file folders in the hands of his employees, who are equally entertaining as they agilely prance in and out of the office.

The cast also does a nimble job with Urinetown‘s fetching and diverse musical score, the highlights of which were Rob Jenkins’ “Cop Song” and Zach Morris’ gospel-flecked tune “Run, Freedom, Run!”both performers exhibited strong vocal talents and considerable pluck when faced with difficult compositions. A musical comedy presented by an enthusiastic cast, Urinetown is one you won’t want to miss.