It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a play as funny as “Puppets Should Speak.” From Schedule C Productions out of Anderson, Indiana, it’s a refreshing mix of clever and stupid, which just happens to be one of my all time favorite mixes.
“Puppets Should Speak” is the story of a waitress named Amanda, their therapist, Dr. Fine, their boyfriend, Alex, and his best friend, Frankie. Amanda approaches Dr. Fine seeking guidance to improve their relationship with Alex — an actual puppet — who has stopped communicating with Amanda (because he is a puppet).
Dr. Fine is a tightly wound character whose therapeutic methodologies are focused on control, ranging from Pavlovian bells, to hypnotism, to violent threats. Amanda, desperate for solutions, acquiesces. After all, their driving motivation is to restore Alex’s happiness, and thus, their own happiness — that is, until Frankie comes along.
“Puppets Should Speak” is a wild, slapstick, surrealist narrative of desperation that toys with relationship dynamics, communication and protomodern (or never modern) psychological therapy approaches. It is also full of some of the funniest physical humor that I’ve seen outside of stand-up in ages.
Oh, and there are some really graphic love scenes with puppets. I mean, wow.
I also want to mention that when I saw the show, the crew was experiencing some significant technical difficulties, and they pulled the whole thing off without a hitch. I am forever impressed with the efficiency and professionalism with which the Cincinnati Fringe Festival is conducted.
I feel confident in saying that “Puppets Should Speak” was one of my favorite shows that I’ve seen at Fringe this year. You should see it if you have the chance. Sure, there are legitimate messages about communication and control and relationships you can take away. But the amount of wit, skill, and experience it takes to make something so completely ridiculous into something so completely brilliant — that can’t be missed.
Hilly Kenkel is a former vocal performance major and lifelong lover of music, political science nerd, podcast junkie, and Cincinnatian. She goes through sporadic periods of obsessive sourdough baking, weight lifting, distance running, and gardening.