Hanne Tierney’s puppet play My Life in a Nutshell, at Here, offers lessons in romance and geometry. Her show depicts five angular mannequins who form a love pentagram. On one side of the stage, a musician accompanies the action on double bass and toy piano; in the other wing, Tierney and confederates manipulate the figures, using a dizzying array of discs and wires, while Tierney provides deadpan narration. She regales audiences with the adventures of A, B, C, D, and E—life-size puppets involved in various amours. If their floppy-limbed antics entice, don’t get too attached. Death haunts these love affairs, and hardly anyone survives the piece.
Tierney represents Death with a jointed green pole and a deep voice. He tries to attract D, saying, “I have a nice place to sleep, good books, good wine, and—I have health insurance.” Irresistible! Actually, Death is rather wonderful. This play marks Tierney’s first experiment with humanoid puppetry, and while her alphabetical mannequins are nice enough, her more abstract renderings delight the most: Death’s obdurate rod and a quartet of Slinkies embodying the recursive musings of Gertrude Stein. They combine to offer a tender, eccentric, accessible play—not such a tough nutshell to crack.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 20, 2009