August 12, 2014

Titus Andronicus — convoluted and graphically violent as all get-out — is not generally regarded as one of Shakespeare’s better plays. This tragedy about a Roman general whose family is at odds with the Goths is a relentless parade of revenge, cannibalism and bloodletting. But its excesses lend themselves to a comic shellacking, and at the Beckett Theater, the mischief makers in the Puppet Shakespeare Players have a semi-improvised field day. The troupe’s productions include Puppet Hamlet and Puppet Romeo and Juliet, but it’s hard to imagine as suitable a candidate for sendup as Titus. The production sidesteps much of the early action (“It was mostly exposition, anyway,” says a voice-over introduction, which alerts viewers to the prospect of “puppet puke”), and soon gets right into the violence, beginning with the death of Bassianus and the rape of Lavinia. Adam Weppler makes a fittingly stolid Titus, while Sarah Villegas vamps as the perfidious, cuckolding Goth queen, Tamora. Christopher Gebauer gets off some funny deadpan reactions as Titus’s ineffectual brother, Marcus. But these actors are predictably upstaged by the many puppets, designed by A. J. Coté, who plays Tamora’s lover, Aaron (here a boar).


August 1, 2014

Puppet Titus sounds like some kind of disease, and a few sick minds are clearly involved in this prankish adaptation of Shakespeare’s notorious horror play. Ten young actors, including seven Avenue Q–ish puppeteers, give revenge tragedy a collegiate-stoner comic spin, with Adam Weppler’s Titus playing straight man to the antics of the others. It doesn’t take much to tip the source material’s hurly-burly of murder, mutilation, adultery, rape and human-meat pastry into absurdity; often, the text needs no changing at all. (Chiron: “Thou hast undone our mother!” Aaron: “Villain, I have done thy mother!”) As a puppeteer says in one of many irreverent asides: “Can you believe Shakespeare wrote that crap?” The actors are appealingly artless—shout-out to Shane Snider’s skeezy Chiron—and some of this Titus is really pretty funny, in a goofy garage-theater way.

Entertainment Weekly

Melissa Rose

July 31, 2014

In a recent appearance on Fox News, Twisted Sister frontman–turned–Off Broadway producer Dee Snider summed up Puppet Titus Andronicus—a low-budget, hipster, furry riff on Shakespeare’s bloodiest play—thusly: ”If you hate Shakespeare, you will love puppet Shakespeare.” It’s a pretty good pitch. Puppet Shakespeare seems perfect for high school kids who think the Bard is uncool and inaccessible (note the light profanity, nipple rings, and frequent mentions of threesomes), who would never sit through three and a half hours of King Lear (Puppet Titus clocks in at about 100 minutes), or who can’t pay Broadway prices to see Orlando Bloom in Romeo and Juliet (tickets go for about $50, most of which seems to have gone toward silly string).


August 3, 2014

Literary critic Harold Bloom once suggested that the ideal way to present Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus would be as a parody directed by Mel Brooks. Shakespeare’s early tragedy-thriller is a wild, nonstop bloodbath that makes the end of Hamlet look tame by comparison. It is rarely staged or taken seriously. One little-known theater company, the Puppet Shakespeare Players, has come up with an even better way of doing the play. As you’ve probably already guessed based on the group’s name, it’s with puppets. It got no less than Twisted Sister rocker Dee Snider to sign on as a producer. Alas, the 90-minute production itself, which is done in the style of the long-running puppet musical Avenue Q, with actors operating furry-looking puppets in plain sight of the audience, is an amateurish mess that, with the exception of portraying gushing blood by spraying Silly String, is not funny at all.

New York Daily News


July 30, 2014

In Puppet Titus Andronicus, a comic riff on the Bard’s grisliest tragedy, the fur flies. So does silly string. The candy-colored aerosol goop stands in for blood in the latest revival of a gory classic about a Roman general hellbent on revenge — and all that goes with it. That includes slit throats, a raped virgin, a severed tongue, hacked-off hands and a dash of covert cannibalism. Such over-the-top violence invites a few pokes. Backed by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and presented by the Puppet Shakespeare Players, which has already put Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet through its Avenue Q-like mill, the show packs some inspired and amusing moments — including a unique use of ricotta cheese — but, alas, it mostly just strings you along.