“The Pied Piper” is not a complicated story, nor is it a literary journey that will knock off socks with its twists and turns. But the puppet mastery of Carlo Colla and Sons Marionette Company lends intrigue to this rendition of the classic folk tale “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.”
Directed by Eugenio Monti Colla, the show is about a small village whose residents enlist the help of a stranger after the town is overrun by rats. When the mayor of the village refuses to pay the fee promised to the piper, the town’s fate takes a dark turn.
The set, designed by puppeteer, lighting designer and sculptor Franco Citterio, is framed by an ornamental, flatly painted facade that seems to welcome the audience into a pop-up story book. Every time the panel that separates the puppets from their audience lifts, it’s as if a page has been turned and a new set and new scene emerges from the page.
During the crucial moment the town is overrun by rats, the use of three different levels of puppetry results in a cascading effect that echoes the running of the wildebeests in Julie Taymor’s production of “The Lion King.” It's an impressive use of perspective.
This is among the many moments of the show performed to recorded actors and singers in Scotland and Milan that elicits audible reactions from the audience.
The simplicity of the story helps bring out the cleverness of the puppeteers, especially noticeable when the characters gasp simultaneously, when they quiver or shake their heads, or when they magically appear from behind a tree (a feat that shouldn’t be possible since their strings can be seen above).
The plot is more after-school special than delightful fairy tale, but the puppetry is masterful — enough to hold one's attention despite the uninspiring story.
“The Pied Piper” will be performed again at noon and 5 p.m. May 26, and at noon May 27. Then Carlo Colla and Sons Marionette Company switches over to its second show, “Il matrimonio segreto,” May 28-30.