Kids will occasionally ask you to watch them play, which sounds innocuous enough, until they’re 20 minutes into a one-man light saber skirmish, and then it’s hell. But imagine a child whose playing you could enjoy. Imagine a child who could make you giggle at the sight of a plastic cow being buffeted about by a Slinky tornado. Imagine a child who hails from Garden City but occasionally sounds like Bela Lugosi. A child who’s better-funded, slightly profane, 60-years-old, and gay.
That child is Paul Zaloom.
Formerly the mad-scientist star of the TV program Beakman’s World (way hipper than Bill Nye), Zaloom is possessed of a delightful silliness and visual creativity. But his latest show sadly doesn’t feel like the best forum for the puppeteer’s talents.
Co-created by Zaloom and Lynn Jeffries and directed by Randee Trabitz, White Like Me: A Hunky Dory Puppet Show chronicles the misadventures of White Man, a space-traveling native of the planet Caucazoid who decides to civilize Earth and bless its people with cholera, immigration agents, and the like. White Man plays golf and chats with God, but nothing much in the way of plot or pointed satire comes to pass. In the context of a 75-minute puppet comedy, the topic (white people) feels too big and tired to yield anything very inspired.
What does shine is the setup: Tables brimming with makeshift Terry Gilliam–esque puppets and props; a tiny proscenium stage on which Zaloom manipulates his cast; and a projected video feed that lends the onstage action a neat stop-motion effect. There’s no doubt Zaloom has plenty to offer, so here’s hoping his next subject matter proves a little less pallid.