"When Eileen Blumenthal spoke about American puppetry at the UNIMA festival in Perth she had just seen Kevin Augustine's BRIDE and she described it as having some of the darkest, most frightening images that she had seen in the realm of puppet theatre.
...BRIDE is a work of great intensity and towering ambition...the subject is epic; the style poetic, the imagery is nightmarish. The script comes from religious and philosophical sources. Although the subjects are deep and complex, the source material remains in the background and the actual text uses words with great economy and touches of sly, subtle wit.
...As an on-stage performer, Kevin Augustine is an actor who mesmerizes the audience with rich, powerful, nuanced portrayals. His puppet characterizations are equally strong, and there is complete separation and definition between Kevin, visible as a human character, and the puppet character his is manipulating.
"Brilliant puppeteer Kevin Augustine has a God complex."
You might expect a puppeteer to have a God complex. All those hours in the workshop, building little creatures out of wood or cloth, animating them, making them speak—it could give anyone delusions of omnipotence. The puppet-master-as-deity conceit lies at the center of Kevin Augustine’s astonishing Bride, in which he and 14 manipulators and musicians create an utterly bizarre and spellbinding fable about (are you ready?) the millennia-old shift from polytheism to monotheism. Oh, and it’s a heartbreaking family tale as well.
In this gothic fantasia, the Father (a heavily made-up Augustine) is a senile, ochre-skinned wraith whose Heaven resembles the trash-strewn retro-industrial world of the movie Brazil. Shouting into phones to answer a flood of prayers or consulting his crumbling scriptures, this decaying patriarch desperately needs help. He creates an Idea in the form of a plug-ugly but endearing puppet child (Augustine’s deformed homunculi are made of rubber foam and paint). In a long middle section, the Father trains the Idea to be a kind of perfect-bodied messiah (symbolized by the dancer James Graber). Tragically, the Idea can’t live up to the Father’s expectations, and faces sacrifice. To say more would be spoiling the story, which ends with a jaw-dropping tableau in which an absent matriarch returns.
The action is performed with enveloping sound design by Dave Malloy and haunting live music by Andrea La Rose. Augustine’s meticulous, almost classical performance anchors the slightly meandering plot. Over the 90-minute running time, some scenes do go on too long, but the lush, nightmarish visuals rarely bore. In the church of puppet artistry, Augustine is divine.
In this brilliant and disturbing creation myth from Brooklyn-based puppet theatre Lone Wolf Tribe, God may not be dead, but he isn't feeling particularly well.
Although Lone Wolf Tribe is a tight and unified ensemble, Bride is primarily the vision of Kevin Augustine, who wrote, directed (with Ken Berman), designed the puppets, and portrays the senile, sock-gartered deity. He's playing with some potentially cringe-inducing subjects here -- the mother goddess, reconciling the male and female cosmic principles, etc. -- but stages them with such imagination and dry wit that the material bypasses New Age corn and penetrates straight to the viewer's subconscious.
Visually, Bride occupies a dark alternative universe that suggests a kinship with filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet (The City of Lost Children) and surrealist animators the Brothers Quay.
He's not shy, folks: Actor/writer/director/puppeteer Kevin Augustine takes on the role of God himself in "Bride," a supremely creepy fantasia that reimagines a patriarchal deity as a jaundiced, decrepit Gepetto figure, constantly overwhelmed by the trouble in the world. The story scans like a master's thesis from the Marvel Comics School of Questionable Cosmology, but the play's endlessly imaginative, junk-strewn production design makes the world of "Bride" worth visiting -- though you probably wouldn't want to go there when you die.
...When Father's beloved puppet climbs down a ladder into the underworld, we're not concerned whether the place is Hell or Purgatory or just Heaven's basement. The terrifying puppets that inhabit it -- rats, various goddess limbs, the damned -- create a concrete fantasy world that doesn't allow us time to think. It blasts us with images, with no printed page or celluloid frame to mediate the impact. In P.S. 122's relatively small house, the surrealism of blood spilling from a gramophone takes over the space more fully than the most advanced technology ever could.
"Kevin Augustine showcases his incredibly detailed puppets, all of them with the darkly sensuous touch of the artist, in a psychological mind f**k that will have you rethinking all you thought you knew about puppetry."
Lone Wolf Tribe's Bride is that weird sort of wonderful that brings butterflies to the stomach and flashes of color to the eyes. Inventive, unique, and a superlative work of theater, Kevin Augustine's hybrid puppet/human epic is an intensely fascinating show.
...Bride is a macabre dance that fuses puppets (Augustine) right out of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas with a large set (Tom Lee) pockmarked with anachronistic terminals and gramophones straight from Terry Gilliam's brain.
...A twisted, clever work of theater, for all this darkness, Bride remains a stark and beautiful work of art.
What's most astonishing is that, despite using puppets, there is nothing small about this show. (Hell, there's even a fully discordant band, led by Andrea La Rose and featuring soprano Rachel Carter White.) From the epic plot to the full use of P122's wide upstairs space, Bride features a larger-than-life atmosphere that is filled with beauty, surprise, and heart-thudding creativity. So yes, I do; I wouldn't have my plays any other way.
Bride, the new theatre piece by Kevin Augustine and Lone Wolf Tribe, is monumental, epic, and audacious. ...it takes its audience to a world of singular vision and grotesque beauty—a place surely none of us has ever been before.
...Augustine’s performance is extraordinary.
...Each of the movements in Bride represents a remarkable feat of imagination, and the realization of them is astonishing and artful.
"An eerie creation myth that conjures an otherworldly dystopia"
"Augustine's puppetry is often compelling, especially the ragged, prune-faced child whose trials at the hands of its peculiar dad evoke a strong sympathy. Watching the tyke descend a staircase made of skeletons to a rat-filled basement, its fear is palpable-quite an achievement."
Mr. Augustine plays God impressively
The prop list for Culturemart 2007 is a daunting thing to imagine:
For example, take former Here resident artist Kevin Augustine’s “Bride.” The stage is set with a fascinating abundance of props: lamps, manhole covers, wires, and switch boxes. In a downstage corner, there is an impressive pile of leg bones, mannequin heads, and prosthetic limbs partially concealed in plastic. Augustine himself sits on a carved wooden throne, half naked, painted white, wearing sunglasses, and listening to sounds emanating from the large golden horn of a phonograph. An ape-masked performer (Catherine Wronowski) drags herself across the stage while fussing over the many props until Augustine rises and moves to the wings, to be hooked to wires and lifted into the air with a macabre foam puppet (also wonderfully detailed) attached to his front. The dexterity with which simple movements are painstakingly conducted is brilliant. Who cares what the piece is about?
Bride is a theatre work in-progress. Kevin Augustine took the bold step of presenting scenes or sketches of a longer, still to-be-invented theatre work to audiences at the Fringe Festival. The on-stage Kevin is an actor of appealing intensity. He weaves a spell that carries the audience through moments of high energy creativity including times of clearly focused inspiration, fumbling self doubt, cosmic connectedness, trivial distractions, and playful improvisations. An artist is at work here.
The puppet characters in Bride are grotesque and innocent. Kevin’s on stage interaction with these vulnerable creatures of his own imagination shows a concern, and a tender respect. The interaction feels genuine, even soulful.