In its premiere production, the aptly named Cruel Company wants desperately to achieve the shocking onstage nightmare of Antonin Artaud's theatre of cruelty. Accordingly, promotional material for the new playlet "Little Mother," written and directed by Katie Green, advertised a dialogue-free evening of R-rated carnal oppression as told through shadow puppetry and an original live score by Shawn Jones of the Lovely Sparrows. Though the puppetry was lovely and the score sensual, "Little Mother" didn't shock or harrow; it seemed incomplete.
The opening scene reveals the Little Mother – a modest-looking woman (Laura Ray) who works as a prostitute to support her family – giving a blowjob to an abusive customer (Andrew Butler). Supertitles accompanied the action, but I couldn't see the text from my seat, which made the story difficult to follow. Little Mother and her ill husband (Nathan Brockett) cope with their anguish by casting shadows on the wall: the unlikely love story of an elephant and a rooster. Disappointingly, the beautiful puppet segments were videotaped rather than performed live, while the excellent band at center stage was so interesting that I again lost track of the supertitles. Passionate though its performers were, "Little Mother"'s story seemed played out rather than nightmarish and left me confused.
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