Carnival of the Dead, at Link’s Hall, through April 7. At age nine I staged a “carnival” whose attractions included blindfolding guests and trailing their hands through pans of unidentifiable gunk. My mother gently pointed out that it didn’t count as entertainment if the perpetrator enjoyed it more than the audience.
The same applies to Carnival of the Dead, an olio of dumb show, puppetry, recitation, and music: the performers seem less concerned with communicating than with congratulating themselves on knowing the horrors of U.S. policy in Latin America. Though the puppet show about the rise and fall of Pancho Villa is amusing–the narrator actually narrates, for those of us not already in the know–the one about the overthrow of Salvador Allende is stupefying, as the puppeteer keens an indictment of the evil hawk from the north that makes up in tunelessness what it lacks in comprehensibility. Probably in homage to Brecht, this bit features partisan lyrics and annoying music–which do not in themselves a Brechtian musical make.
If creators Damien and Raven Hinojosa were not Hispanic, the evening’s stereotypical vision of a town filled with hustlers, gamblers, drunks, and sluts would arouse significant, and legitimate, protest. And the decision to end the show by pulling the audience onstage to dance, willing or not, is artistically indefensible: what are we supposed to be celebrating? Ultimately this evening conveys none of the important things to be said about our nation’s sorry history south of the border.