Performed by Nicolas Di Gaetano, Trevor Leigh, Viktor Lukawski. Created and directed by the Old Trout Puppet Workshop. Berkeley Street Theatre, to Dec. 15.
The Old Trout Puppet Workshop has its sights set on the ignorant—and by that, I don’t mean right-wing radio hosts or mayors who fail to grasp what a conflict of interest is. Ignorance, the one-of-a-kind Calgary troupe’s latest puppet play for adults, probes the prehistoric cluelessness of our cave-dwelling ancestors. It also examines the role that the pursuit of happiness, however vain, has played in humankind’s development. Oh, and it’s about puppets hitting one another with rocks and sticks.
The Trouts, who in the past have mined such age-old myths as Beowulf and Don Juan, dig back even further here for a Darwinian take on Adam and Eve. In this version, the two are just your average Neanderthal couple, slowly discovering food, fire, sex, and the other fundamentals, while trying to stave off predators and asshole alpha males, and waiting for their frontal lobes to grow. As we watch their struggle, the play repeatedly flashes forward to dark little skits that illustrate how modern humans, despite the advances of civilization, retain the primitive motives of their grunting forbears.
It’s a bleak thesis, delivered in the same merrily macabre style as the gang’s best-known show, Famous Puppet Death Scenes. The puppets, as always, are a lugubrious delight: The Stone Age ones are rudimentary rock-heads who look like they’ve rolled out of Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece, and the modern ones have glum senior-citizen faces (even as children). But the show’s Adam-and-Eve scenes could be more inspired and the trio of moustachioed puppeteers are a little too hammy. They should leave it to their puppets—and Judd Palmer’s mock–Morgan Freeman narration—to provide the laughs.