BEST OFF-THE-WALL GIFT SHOP (2004)
Great Arizona Puppet Theater
Looking for some political party favors? Get your hands on the "Axis of Evil II" finger puppet set, packing tiny versions of Bush, Ashcroft, Cheney and Rumsfeld. The first "Axis of Evil" set -- more global, just as terrifying -- partners Dubya with Saddam, Kim Jong-il and Khamenei. Shopping for kids? More inspiring (and less frightening) finger puppets include "The Revolutionaries" -- Che, Gandhi, Mandela and Trotsky -- and "Great Artists" (Monet, Kahlo, van Gogh and Dal), as well as Composers, Philosophers and Psychologists (Freud, Jung, Anne Freud and the couch). The shop's full-size puppets are equally original: We spotted a scarab beetle, meerkat, lemur, cobra, pteranodon and a plumed phoenix -- plus a pimpin' poodle in a leopard-skin suit, black boots and red shades. In addition to hawking tee shirts, tabletop stages, and puppet paintings by local artist John Yaeger, GAPT houses puppet displays and, for the near future, the Puppeteers of America Bookstore. Titles range from practical -- Stage Fright: Health & Safety in the Theater -- to fanciful -- The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons From a Life in Feathers.