The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer, currently performing at HERE Arts Center, is both a joyful and melancholic fable. Written and performed by Tim Watts, and presented with a seamless blend of multimedia which includes animation and puppetry, the solo show is an artfully designed, gently affecting little gem.
The work is set in the not-too-distant future after global warming has drowned most of the Earth. An early monochromatic animation sequence, depicting the catastrophic rise of the oceans, sets the tone of the show: the story may be post-apocalyptic and sometimes sad, but the artful simplicity of the telling has a warming, almost child-like innocence. Watts, also credited as animator, moves about the playing area controlling the various stage events -- in most scenes he is by turns narrator, puppeteer, and actor, always welcoming with a relaxed, calming performance style.
As the story begins, Alvin presides over his wife's deathbed with a tender song. (Like many of the show's scenes, it presents Alvin alternately as animated figure, live actor, and puppet.) In his isolated, mournful state, he soon becomes a deep sea explorer in search of an inhabitable place for the surviving members of the human race. The solo format deepens the show's emotional colors and nicely emphasizes Alvin's solitude on his mission, without being any more downbeat than necessary.
Concise and well-paced at just under an hour, the show's ultimately hopeful message is put over by its many moments of whimsy and humor: it's hard not to believe in man's capacity for joy when Alvin, depicted with a gloved hand for a body and a buoy for a head, happens upon a disco ball and busts out some dance moves.
-- Patrick Lee