Big Top Machine
A must see tour-de-force.
Augustine is one of the greatest puppet artisans working today. He and his company have proved themselves capable of creating brilliant works of art. Their ability to inject the puppets' reality into our own is uncanny.
Kevin Augustine's puppets are incredible creatures. Their intricacies are many, with fine facial features and clever physical manipulations that lend them a super-reality. Their carefully chiseled, slightly askew contours make them simultaneously disturbing and melancholic.
And with the fine-tuned coordination of Augustine and his fellow puppeteers, the characters come to life in an astounding manner. Add to the list of characters a luminescent butterfly and a book that attempts to fly from its reader's hand, and Augustine has created a magical world in which anything goes, a world particular to puppetry and to Augustine's work in particular.
Spectators find Big Top Machine enlightening, thanks to Augustine's ability to conjure a Peter Pan-like tale about a young man who joins a circus in search of heroes and modern-day magic in cynical times. Slipping in and out of a variety of amusing carny characters, Augustine portrays Stan, the naive caped hero of the play, while also skillfully animating his eerily visceral puppets, which include a seedy ringmaster and a skeptical young boy who lead Stan to believe that circus heroes and enchantment are nothing more than Barnum shams.
This show has the potential to make us wish for an innocence we have lost forever.
I gasped with delight along with the audience as each new wonder was revealed, and I was moved to tears by the story’s conclusion. In short, I had the kind of theatre experience one always hopes for, but only rarely enjoys. This show is absolutely not to be missed.
Big Top Machine, a sly and sometimes heartbreaking celebration of wonder, is also an inquisition into our collective loss of capacity for same; it is, furthermore (and perhaps above all else) a showcase for the remarkable and very particular talents of Kevin Augustine, an actor, playwright, and puppeteer whose work has amassed a small cult following and whose most recent play, Animal, has just been published by NYTE. .... don't miss it.
...And in a tour de force at the very beginning of Big Top Machine, he more or less turns himself into a puppet, with his black-shrouded assistants decking him out in various accessories (tie, hat, scarf, etc.) as he re-creates Ramsey's audition for the circus, playing all the parts with rapid-fire precision and perfect, hilarious timing.
...The show's piece de resistance/climax is a jolting, thrilling deconstruction of Augustine's puppetry art. Watch this remarkable performer argue with himself—Frank the puppet versus Ramsey the hero: the actor debunks the artistry as just so much smoke and mirrors, and illusion and magic collide with reality and self-deception