The telltale puppet
The Raven and Other Images of Edgar Allan Poe
Carmichael, CA 95608
It takes a pretty creative mind to blend Edgar Allan Poe, poetry and puppets together. That imagination belongs to Sacramento State University professor emeritus and renowned puppeteer Richard Bay, who has made a name for himself in the puppet world for the last 30 years.
Bay has resurrected and revised a show he first produced at CSUS in 1979 —The Raven and Other Images of Edgar Allan Poe—for a current production at the Chautauqua Playhouse. It's an evening with Poe that explores both the writer and his works by using live actors who examine Poe's life and a range of puppets that act out scenes of Poe's greatest works.
The puppets used are Japanese Bunraku style, with two people controlling one puppet by manipulating it through rods and gloved hands for gestures. The results are often mesmerizing and breathe new life into the poems and stories we think we know, including The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart and Annabel Lee.
Because the puppets lack facial expressions and the puppeteers stand onstage, it takes a few minutes to become engrossed in the characters. But thanks to the skilled puppeteers’ fluid gestures and talented dialogue delivery, the figures soon become animated and believable.
The two live characters are Poe, with Jon Jackson doing a memorable portrayal of a distraught and disturbed writer, and a narrator (Kara Ow) giving background on Poe’s life. The narration is a nice addition, though as written, she doesn’t quite have the intensity to match Poe and the seven puppeteers.