Elvis: A Rockumentary in Puppets
Performed by The Onion Weavers
at the Dunster JCR
through May 7
Sometimes you have to search outside mainstream Harvard theater to find good-hearted fun. This is especially true this year when disease and depression seemed to be the grand themes. Okay, granted, Elvis: A Rockumentary in Puppets is also about disease and depression, but at least it's funny.
The Onion Weavers Puppet The after was founded in 1992 and since then they have tackled Aristophanes' The Frogs, the Star Wars trilogy and Edgar Allen Poe's stories, all with wonderfully funny results. For their newest production, they chronicle Elvis Presley's music, life, and after life. He has never been quite so, er, honored.
In creating their rockumentary, the Weavers have taken verbatim the testimonies of Elvis fans, theorists, and historians, and put them in the mouths of the Weavers puppets and occasional live action players. The results are often hysterical, occasionally serious, and always a little weird.
Undeniably Elvis is king, but the Onion Weaver's Puppetry reveals him to be a prophet and cultural icon in a way few other media could. Using a multi-level multimedia approach, we guffaw at the professor puppet's scholarly analyses and the confessions of Elvis' sideburns. The live Blue Hawaii scene and the Graceland tour guide, though not puppets, are also side-splittingly funny. Frequent gifts flung to the audience accentuate the notion of Elvis as paraphernalia and keep everyone happy.
Some of the puppets are better made than others and the "stage" managing and tech could be more clean, but none of that really matters. It is a puppet show after all, and the amazing things that can be done with puppets overshadow any technical glitches. One of the Weaver's most clever uses of puppetry is the missing footage from the Ed Sullivan show revealing Elvis' all-too-talked-about pelvis. Also delightful is the mamoth floating Priscilla Presley Head.
The world of puppetry allows for a suspension of disbelief that is rarely attained on the Harvard stage. It demands a space of pure fantasy. The seance would have been totally ineffective if it was done live. Throughout the Rockumentary the puppets have an endearing charm that few actors could approach.
It is a rare parody that is reverant while poking fun--the Weaver's treatment of Elvis attains just this precious harmony. Like Elvis' fabulous songs which accompany the piece, it is at once moving and laughable with a beat you can dance to.
From the voting box on the program for the Young Elvis Pez or the Old Elvis Pez, until long after the spectacle of a curtain call, Elvis makes you smile. The production is witty, creative, and even informative. There's nothing at Harvard quite like the Onion Weavers--no one else could make Elvis live.