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.

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.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 7, 2004

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