Karagiozis, the wily and witty puppet of Greek and Turkish folk tradition, was loved by audiences as the crafty underdog who could dupe even the smartest aristocrat out of a drachma or two. Traditionally rendered as shadow-puppet theater, the tales of Karagiozis are here lifted from those two-dimensional confines and given an outdoor staging by master puppeteer Ralph Lee's Mettawee River Theater Company. Charismatic Evan Zes plays the humpbacked Karagiozis with a goofy voice and foot-long proboscis that he wags at the mostly pint-size audience for laughs. It is largely a show for children, but even adults can find humor in Dave Hunsaker's script that sprinkles in present-day politics with the dirty jokes and silly puns Karagiozis is known for.
photo: Mettawee River Theater Company
Everyday folk: Ralph Lee's menagerie
The Heroic & Pathetic Escapades of Karagiozis Outdoor garden of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Amsterdam Avenue and 112th Street
The evening is divided into two plays, primarily memorable for Lee's strange and wonderful creations, including a giant walking head and a dancing shack of calico rags. The first features Karagiozis as the servant of Alexander the Great, who battles a fearsome winged dragon made from pipes, motorcycle parts, and other junkyard scraps. In the second, Karagiozis applies for a job as a baker only to run off with the townspeople's food. His antics may seem mean-spirited, but when he confesses, "I've kneaded dough my whole life," it's easy to sympathize.