“Ramona” — A Steamy Love Affair

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE that a locomotive brute with a big whistle destined for great things could ever fall for an innocent little shunt engine. But that’s exactly what happens in Rezo Gabriadze’s story about “Ramona,” who out of admiration for her beloved Ermon musters the courage to overstep her social rank, literally jump the tracks, and end up becoming—of all things—a high-wire circus act.

(I know, I know: It sounds like a no-strings-attached relationship, but in their case it’s simply impossible.)

For sure, the story of Ramona with her rail yard peers and circus cohorts is zany, but it’s also filled with charm, wit, political jabs, and world-class puppetry in a presentation tailored for children and adults alike—as evidenced by the full house at The Emmett Robinson Theatre on Wednesday night.

The children got the magic of theatre, a sense of delight in puppet-world, and a journey through pure wonderment. The adults got all that and more, including humorous word play, a taste of Soviet Union party politics, and a fascinating array of characters who were brought adorably to life by the creator, his talented team of puppeteers, and their supporting cast of technicians.

This show is spellbinding from beginning to end, and two things in particular seem to be the reason why. One is the art form itself and how the puppeteers manage to endow objects with life by either hinting at or exaggerating human gestures.

As the puppets bounce and bend and turn, it’s obvious that they do so less fluidly than the human body. Yet they are completely believable as real characters—just in a more magical world. Despite their awkwardness, the puppets seem alive with emotion. Maybe the best way to explain it is that it is absolutely wonderful.

The other captivating factor is how Mr. Gabriadze chooses not to hide the puppeteers. He dresses them in black so they’re partially concealed in the background, but he also makes sure that we see them. Why is this? After all, he could easily hang a curtain behind the puppets and deepen the illusion.

Instead, he deepens it in a different way by adding the dimension of puppeteers for us to see and experience. He tells us, “It’s not real.” Meanwhile, as we watch the puppets and puppeteers appearing and disappearing in the shadowy backdrop, our sense of the “reality of illusion” gets heightened—almost tickled—in a way that makes the effect richer than if we were to see only the puppets. In some instances there is virtually no separation between puppet and puppeteer and you’re not sure which is which, or just where the illusion begins and ends.

Creator Rezo Gabriadze

Overall, “Ramona” is an enchanting experience which, like all good theatre, changes the way you see the world—both while you’re in the performance hall and after you walk outside.

And who doesn’t need a little more enchantment in their life?

IMAGE CREDITS: Two stage photos by Irakli Sharashidze.


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It is with life as it is with art: the deeper one penetrates, the broader the view.                   
~ Johann Goethe