Seat Filler: ’s Guide to Theater
BY Brandon Voss
May 04 2010 1:00 PM ET
I’m not a big fan of improv comedy — I find the idea-shouting audience participation between sketches interminable — but Stuffed and Unstrung, the Muppety show that takes Manhattan through May 29 at the Union Square Theatre, is as good as it gets. The 18-plus show is from Henson Alternative, the adult arm of the Jim Henson Company, which features Jim’s son, Brian Henson, as a puppeteer. The gimmick is that one can watch the puppeteers, who are in full view, or the scenes they create projected onto video screens. Before frat boy suggestions straighten up the skit subjects, the evening begins with a prerecorded intro by “puppet producers” Bobby Vegan and Samson Knight, the pig and bull life-partners from Logo’s Tinseltown pilot. The show’s also directed by ginger host Patrick Bristow, the gay comedian best known from Ellen and Showgirls.
There’s a tender three-way bromance at the heart of The Aliens, Annie Baker’s quietly affecting play, which probes the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater through May 29. In the “employees only” area behind a coffeehouse in Vermont, Jasper and KJ, two unshaven slackers with some musical and literary talents, befriend Evan, an awkwardly shy high school kid who takes out the coffeehouse’s trash. They bond there during their own private July 4 celebration, but there aren’t any fireworks, save for a rather surprising turn of events in the second act. Baker has an unparalleled ear for authentic conversational dialogue and slice-of-life drama, but she and director Sam Gold, who also helmed her hit Circle Mirror Transformation, seem to be testing their loyal audience’s patience here with epic pauses, stagnant blocking, and the very opposite of action.
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