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Labapalooza puppets are too mean and miserable to be Muppets

The Brooklyn Paper

Come and play — but the puppets of this DUMBO production are not okay.

Labapalooza, a four-day theater festival at St. Ann’s Warehouse, offers a surprisingly adult, even sinister set of puppet characters, such as three inebriated thugs plotting to cheat and murder each other in a 1980s West Village watering hole.

“It goes from funny, hilarious, and wild, to sad, heartfelt, and scary,” said Christopher Skinner, a playwright.

The productions have a wild and weird flavor for a reason — they are the results of St. Ann’s Warehouse’s Puppet Lab, a program which brings both amateur and professional puppeteers together — working hand-in-hand to develop fully realized puppet shows.

“It’s a really interesting process, because you see people’s work from conception to the full fledge show,” said puppeteer Scott Jackson. “Each participant would show their story and then we’d get feedback. It was amazing, an amazing opportunity.”

The festival reflects the artistic vision — often a dark one at that — of each participant, but the artists involved in Labapalooza have created a festival that is more than the sum of its parts. This may be a good thing because the parts themselves can be a very grungy — and not just the plays — which include a sad tale of a woman and her dying father, and a story about a group of discerning chefs condemning all dairy products (they’re just not that good for you) — but the entire production has the feel of a collaborative and sometimes ad-hoc experiment.

“To be 100-percent honest, our bar, which is full sized, we got probably half of the material to use out of people’s recycling,” said puppeteer Erik Booze. “So, the bar is actually the box for a Pottery Barn crib; somebody got a crib for their baby and that’s now our bar.”

Labapalooza at St. Ann’s Warehouse [38 Water St. between Dock and Main streets in Dumbo, (718) 254–8779, www.stannswarehouse.org] May 31–June 3. $20.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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