Staff, 2023-01-23 14:20:02,
A terrifying whale, a delicate marionette made of ice and a collection of intricate figurines that travel across the terrain of human bodies were several of the sights on offer during the first week of the 12-day Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. The fifth edition of the festival — the largest of its kind in North America — presents performances by artists from 10 countries, as well as workshops, symposia and exhibitions at venues across Chicago through Jan. 29.
Belying the common perception that puppet shows are just for kids, the festival showcases puppetry as a sophisticated art form that generates boundary-pushing work and wholly unexpected experiences for theatergoers. That being said, there are plenty of family-friendly productions in this year’s lineup, including shows at Chicago Children’s Theatre and a free neighborhood tour.
In the recently renovated Studebaker Theater at the Fine Arts Building, a haunting production of “Moby Dick” by the French Norwegian company Plexus Polaire opened the festival. Artistic director Yngvild Aspeli’s adaptation of Herman Melville’s 1851 novel evokes the mystery of the seas and the megalomania of Captain Ahab through large-scale puppets, live music and video projections.
On a skeletal set modeled after the ribs of a ship — or those of a whale — seven actors and puppeteers perform with puppets that include crew members who smoke and sing in their hammocks, an oversized Ahab marionette who rages against…
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