Brian Henson in Stuffed and Unstrung
(© Carol Rosegg)
Brian Henson in Stuffed and Unstrung
(© Carol Rosegg)
A comedy improvisation show with a twist, Stuffed and Unstrung, now at the Union Square Theatre, has a wonderful and inventive cast -- who also just happen to be extremely talented Henson puppeteers. The result is a first rate evening of comedy -- with a program that changes from show to show -- that also doubles as a brilliant look at how puppeteers create a visual image for movies and television.

The puppeteers do their work center stage; they are not dressed in black and hidden in the dark, but are simply there in front of us, a video camera shooting at a height just above their heads. Two large screens on either side of the large stage project the puppet show while we watch them create it in front of our eyes. So you can watch the puppeteers or watch the puppets. Or both.

The one exception to the splendid proceeding is the show's host, Patrick Bristow (who is also the co-creator along with Brian Henson and director of the enterprise). As an onstage presence, he is brittle, charmless, and irritating. As a director, he insists that the audience constantly cry out "Puppet Up!" before every improv, while also demanding audience applause for each effort.

While we can certainly understand why the show would want to reinforce its name with the audience in order to fully brand the title, the phrase is repeated so often as to be downright numbing. Moreover, the hawking of T-shirts and other merchandise that Bristow conducts from the stage seems to sully the show.

Still, Stuffed and Unstrung will often have you roaring with laughter. Just be careful not to become unglued.