SACRED FOOLS | MAINSTAGE 2003 - The Mechanical Rabbit

"Ingenious...breathtakingly inventive... groundbreaking!"  - LA Times

"Outstanding...[a] fascinating sense of irony!" - Backstage West

Congratulations to THE MECHANICAL RABBIT -
Garland Award Honorable Mention:
Puppets (Christine Papalexis,
Mark Bryan Wilson & Mandolina Moon)

A WORLD PREMIERE!...From the author of FEET!

by Padraic Duffy
Directed by
Mauri Bernstein & Padraic Duffy

The darkly comical and surreal tale of a
young boy's search for identity and free will.
A multimedia concoction of puppets, actors and music!

On the Sacred Fools Mainstage...

Thursday - Saturday @ 8pm
March 20 - April 27, 2003
Admission: $15
Reservations: (310) 281-8337
Purchase Tickets Online!
Click here to guarantee your tickets online!

ADDED Closing Night Performance!
Celebrating National Day of Puppetry!
SUNDAY, APRIL 27th @ 7pm!
Q&A AFTERWARDS with the cast,
crew, directors, designers and
playwright!  Free refreshments!

This show was written for adult audiences.
Although it has no sexual content, the surreal, abstract,
and occasionally scary world it depicts may render
the show inappropriate for younger juvenile audiences.

"Feet" and "The Mechanical Rabbit"
Two Plays by Padraic T. Duffy
Now available from Fools Publishing


Lou Burnstein
· Julianne Buescher · Paul Collins
Conor Duffy
· Ralph Gorgoglione · Sam Hale
Jessica Hanna
· Beverly Hynds · Kenny Johnston
Gregory Manion
· Ruth Silveira · Yulia Yemelin

Produced by Paul Plunkett
Puppet Design and Costume Design - Christine Papalexis and Ruth Silveira
Set Design and Video Direction - Jim Walters and Trey Stokes
Sound Design and Original Music - Kevin B. Barron and Kubilay Uner
Lighting Design - Sean Telles
Props Design - Lisa D. Watson
Video Producer - Jim Bartscherer
Technical Producer - Jim Tavares
Slide Photographer -

Production Stills - Kabira Stokes
Production Stage Manager - Heatherlynn Lane
Associate Producer - Jones Welsh

Costume Designer - Ruth Silveira
Lighting Consultant - Isaac Ho



A faceless puppet boy is entrusted with a mechanical rabbit, which he must reluctantly return to a mysterious handless man. During his journey, he parlays with the moon, swims the ocean and penetrates a primeval forest roamed by wild dogs. Eventually, unable to decipher the meaning or even the reality behind his cosmic adventures, the puppet boy tears off his own Styrofoam face.

An adult spin on fairy tale themes, Padraic Duffy's "The Mechanical Rabbit" at the Sacred Fools Theatre is a surrealistic and occasionally unwieldy parable that explores a child's painful progression from innocence to experience. The gap between the two proves too wide for Marty, the puppet protagonist, who eventually tumbles into despair, even insanity.

The slight, deliberately simplistic plot strains to support a wealth of technical effects in Duffy and Mauri Bernstein's ingenious staging. A dizzying combination of mixed-media, puppetry, music and live performance, the piece is breathtakingly inventive. The action is underscored by Kubilay Uner's brooding original music, performed live by cellist Marina Peterson. Like ninjas on a mission, a black-clad crew silently glides around Jim Walters' marvelously malleable set, cueing up video segments, clicking slides and manipulating Christine Papalexis' marvelous puppets.

The puppets range from tiny shadow silhouettes, especially effective in charming underwater sequences, to life-sized. Few human faces are seen. The adult puppets have been constructed with blank Styrofoam faces, onto which slides of actors' faces are projected -- a virtuosic stunt that goes surprisingly smoothly.

Not so smooth, on opening night, was a botched video segment in the final seconds of the show -- a misfortune that cast the thematic point of the proceedings into some doubt. The top-heavy technical elements sometimes slow the play's pacing, but those elements, in and of themselves, are extraordinary.

Video director Trey Stokes, sound designer Kevin B. Barron, lighting designer Sean Telles and lighting designer Ruth Silveira all deserve high praise, as does the entire design team, for this flawed but groundbreaking work.

-- F. Kathleen Foley
LA Times


Credit where credit is due: Padraic Duffy doesn't leave well enough alone, instead stretching the minds of his audiences, stretching the talents of his theatre makers. His latest effort is ambitious, mixing technology with ancient arts of puppeteering to tell a simple story. At least we think it's a simple story: Opening night fumbles seemed to mar much of the production, including perhaps a concluding video that might have either tied the evening together or provided a Duffian twist.

Were this show playing one of the big houses, the two weeks of previews would have resolved many of the technical glitches--although even the big boys occasionally suffer misfiring machinery and squeaking scenery. But these brave souls plunged ahead. At least they plunged when they could. The outstanding puppetry elements (designed by Christine Papalexis & Ruth Silveira) that so tenderly make us see a 3-foot-tall boy running through bamboo forests and cringing at sweetly scary monsters require three black-clad performers to operate him: one realistically handling the legs, one for an expressive pair of gloved hands (Sam Hale), and one to turn the head and voice the lines (Conor Duffy). How does this three-brained, six-legged cluster, their faces hidden by black veils, communicate to improvise around light cues that fail to cue, film clips that fail to roll?

What would have happened to our hero, the young Marty, as he returns home after a time-bending, circular trip under the sea, guided ambivalently by the moon (Silveira)? Did he learn lessons from swimming with the fish or nattering with a crab? Never mind, because we learn much about the actors who brought life to their puppets: Julianne Buescher's body wafts and swirls under Angie the Fish as she brings a wry sarcasm to a round green puppet, while Gregory Manion and an assistant deftly and humorously click Crab's claws as Manion ladles a New Jersey accent over the crusty crustacean. What was the upshot of Marty's dealings with the gangster Duck (voiced by Ralph Gorgolione) and his assistant, a drowned-rat mouse (voiced by Yulia Yemelin)? Finally, why does Momma Bird (manipulated by Beverly Hynds) stop overfeeding her chick and fly the nest? It's a credit to all concerned that the audience wants to know.

Duffy and his co-director Mauri Bernstein can still tighten the show: Although the Japanese-style of puppetry requires the audiences' patience as the story literally and figuratively unfolds in characteristic slowness, we need at least some variety in pacing, plus more instantaneous, more seamless scene changes. Still, there's always pleasure in anticipating Duffy's fascinating sense of irony, even if the eponymous mechanics don't always fire.

-- Dany Margolies
Backstage West


A faceless mute with no short-term memory struggles to make sense of an Alice in Wonderland world in Padriac Duffy’s surreal philosophical fable, directed by Duffy and puppetmaster Mauri Bernstein. More interesting than the playwright’s nebulous story about a misunderstood kid named Marty (Conor Duffy) is the technically superb multimedia production created by a legion of designers and builders. Duffy evokes a disjointed environment using images of scenes from Marty’s life projected on three screens and mannequins manipulated by actors covered head to toe in black. The most delightful characters in this live-action cartoon are the furry animal puppets (by Christine Papalexis) Marty encounters on his journey to deliver a mechanical rabbit to a man with no hands who lives in a forest across the ocean. An elaborate assortment of puppets (including shadow puppets by Beth Peterson, Lena Ergen and Sarah Ormsby), Trey Stokes’ video and slides, Kevin B. Barron’s comical sound effects, Kubilay Üner’s syncopated cello and Jim Walters’ fairy-tale set all enliven Duffy’s somewhat monotonous allegory.

-- Miriam Jacobson
LA Weekly