Toy Stories

As gusts of wind bluster menacingly, gauzy curtains burst apart. The footlights reveal a plane that banks, spins, falters, and finally crashes into the Adirondacks. What has become of Lawrence, its playboy pilot? Detective Pamela Forrest isn't sure, but she's on the case. She's played by a high heel, Lawrence by a saddle shoe. A plane may land spectacularly onstage, but Miss Saigonthis ain't.

Toni Schlesinger's The Mysterious Disappearance of Lawrence Castleunfurls on a cardboard proscenium three feet wide and two feet high, a droll entry in this year's Toy Theater Festival (at CSV through November 22, with a changing schedule of plays). Toy theater, a medium popularized in the 18th century, began as miniature stages popped up in fashionable parlors throughout Europe and the U.S. Patrons purchased or crafted paper figurines and reenacted beloved plays of the day.

Great Small Works, a cohost of the festival, is committed to reviving this art form, which died with the rise of radio and TV. The GSW offering, B.B. in L.A., meshes humor, irony, and pathos to detail Brecht's SoCal sojourn. As a live band plays Brecht-Weill tunes, a three-inch Bertolt dallies at the beach, directs a rehearsal of Galileo, and appears before the HUAC.

The other plays sharing the stage with Lawrenceand B.B.on a recent night proved less involving. Both Susan J. Vitucci's I Remember Ohio and Puppeteers Cooperative's Café Albion Moonlight would benefit from more rehearsal, but Inch by Inch and Row by Row,Meredith Holch's filmic satire of city politics, did evince a certain earthy charm.

 
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