Papageno and Papagena in "The Magic Flute." Courtesy the Salzburg Marionette Theatre
Papageno and Papagena in "The Magic Flute." Courtesy the Salzburg Marionette Theatre

Having Your String Pulled

Puppets are fascinating to watch because through their nimble manipulation, they expose the ultimate frivolity of all the strife and joy of everyday life. Humanity seems to enjoy being represented in distorted mirrors—see our ancestors' cave drawings or first attempts at representative sculpture. These washes of media influence our perceptions about what makes us unique from the opposable-thumbless brutes roaming the earth. And what wonders do we work with our opposable thumbs! Why, without them, there probably wouldn't be any marionettes, and without marionettes . . . well, this space would probably be filled with a couple of paragraphs about the latest '80s hair band still touring the county-fair circuit—don't worry, Tesla, your turn's coming next week.

A tenacious and bizarre art form, puppetry just will not go out of style—not that anyone wishes it would. Think about Being John Malkovich's avant-weirdness, the moral purge of Pinocchio, the "evil" practices of voodoo, Vietnamese water puppetry (it's real and it's magical) and the American presidency—puppetry is just another part of humanity's repertoire of stage antics.

The Salzburg Marionettes (marionettes are puppets controlled by strings, not with hands shoved up their asses) are coming to the Orange County Performing Arts Center to frighten the easily creeped and delight those who like their art presented to them by homunculi. Since 1913, the Austrian puppeteers have been bringing their "family-friendly operas" to puppet-starved cities around the world. Two performances, Mozart's The Magic Flute and Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, promise to be animated by the seamless pulling and dipping of the company's 12 master puppeteers. Best of all, their puppets are guaranteed free of demonic spiritual possession—so, bring the kids!

The Salzburg Marionettes at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-2787. The Magic Flute will be performed Thurs.-Fri., Oct. 26-27, 7:30 p.m.; Hansel and Gretel will be performed Sat., 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m., and Sun., 2 p.m. $65.


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