Chicago Puppetry Festival

Theater Dank’s three-week festival of national and local puppetry opened last weekend with inspired, uneven, but often brilliant performances. The ongoing centerpiece of the festival is Theater Dank’s dreamy, coarse, lyrical Succubus, which brings an ancient myth about soul stealing to life with tin puppets, film, and handheld homunculi. Last weekend’s best offering was Ben Majchrzak’s The Milking, a brilliant transformation of half-full milk bottles into living beings; but the emerging puppeteers in the showcase veered from goofy to lyrical to cynical. Expect the same from the last two weeks of the festival, which fills Link’s Hall with a refreshingly avant-garde comic energy: the remaining performances include a work by New York performance artists Xander Marrow and Becky Stark, an updated Punch-and-Judy show by Liz Joyce, and a collaborative piece by Minneapolis-based In the Heart of the Beast and Bedlam Theatre. Adding to the circus atmosphere are silly raffle prizes and surprise performances at intermission. Young kids might be scared by some of the puppets and themes, but I suspect that audiences with the right mix of playfulness and maturity will appreciate what Bread and Puppet Theater founder Peter Schumann has called “an anarchic art, subversive and untameable by nature.” Theater Dank has brought Chicago a bit of this puppet wilderness. Explore it while you can. Link’s Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, 773-281-0824. Through April 3: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM. Scheduled for March 26 and 27: Theater Dank, Eric Blanc, Michael Sommers, Liz Joyce, and Alison Heimstead and Maren Ward. For April 2 and 3: Theater Dank, Redmoon Theater, Dave Buken of Theater Oobleck, Cathy McCullough, Jennifer Friedrich, and Xander Marrow and Becky Stark. $10 per program. Note: A special evening of puppetry and film, hosted by Laura Heit and D.B. Griffith, complements the festival at 1550 N. Milwaukee on Sunday, March 28, at 8 PM. $10; call 773-342-9659. –Carol Burbank

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Succubus still.