We had no expectations last Friday night for N.C. State University Center Stage’s presentation of Teatro Hugo & Ines, but we had one major question: “How can puppets possibly be ‘big enough’ to perform onstage for a theater audience?”
The answer came right away. Teatro Hugo & Ines uses a 12′ x 12′ platform, six inches high. It is placed downstage center, and the curtains are pulled in to the edges of the platform. The result: our attention is focused on the platform, and we are soon surprised by how “big” a puppet can be — even a puppet no bigger than a human hand.
When the lights go down, the magic begins. We are treated to a series of “shorts,” most of which involve one person and one or more puppets.
A bald musician. A child playing ball. A preening chap with unruly hair. These are some of the characters that you will meet when you go to see the charming Teatro Hugo & Ines. Hugo Suarez and Ines Pasic are trained and talented mimes who have been traveling the world for the last 30 years, sharing this unique form of art with delighted fans.
Their puppets are their own bodies. Using black body stockings, bits of cloth, and a nose on a rubber band, the puppeteers magically transform a foot, a knee, or a hand into characters in universal situations. Not a word is spoken during the entire one-hour performance, yet the full range of emotion is expressed by the characters.
The sole of a foot becomes the longish face of a man preening in the mirror. A hand becomes a shy child playing ball or a crone planting seeds. A man’s chin becomes a puppet’s nose; the man’s lips part, and we see a pair of eyes — eyes that are actually capable of shedding tears. Fingers transform into hair that goes straight with shock. It’s wonderful.
We witnessed one puppet who actually played a ukulele. Another mimed playing guitar and upright bass. Yet another puppet “died” onstage and was resuscitated (only to subsequently deflate). And then there’s the puppet who worked the strings of a second puppet. Particularly impressive was the jealous puppet who repeatedly tripped up his competition.
Especially magical: the ability of all of these puppets to express themselves. Facial expressions and body language — who would have thought that a foot, a hand, a knee … could possibly seem so human?
The performance that we attended was followed by a question-and-answer session. We learned that these puppet characters are “like our children,” that each of these puppets has a name, that Hugo and Ines each have a favorite puppet, and that Hugo and Ines pretty much invented this art form.
In a world full of car chases, explosions, and gratuitous violence as entertainment, Teatro Hugo & Ines’ show feels like a throwback to a gentler and simpler time. Enjoy it the next time it comes around.
SECOND OPINION: April 6th Durham, NC WRAL.com preview by Sarah Lindenfeld Hall for “Go Ask Mom”: http://www.wral.com/innovative-puppeteers-headed-to-n-c-state-for-weekend-shows/14563866/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the April 8th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2015/04/teatro-hugo-ines-will-transform-the-ordinary-into-the-extraordinary-on-april-10-12-at-ncsu/.)
TEATRO HUGO & INES (N.C. State University Center Stage, April 10-12 in the Titmus Theatre in Frank Thompson Hall in Raleigh, NC). SHOW: http://ncsu.edu/centerstage/currentseason/teatro-hugo-and-ines.html. VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://hugoeines.wordpress.com/videos/. NCSU NEWS RELEASE: https://news.ncsu.edu/2015/03/puppeteers/. PRESENTER: http://www.ncsu.edu/centerstage/index.html https://www.facebook.com/NCSUCenterStage, and https://twitter.com/ncsucenterstage. VENUE: http://www.ncsu.edu/arts/thompson/index.html. OTHER LINKS: Teatro Hugo & Ines (puppeteers): http://hugoeines.blogspot.com/ (official website). [RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.