Nearly Naked Theatre and All Puppet Players Present Fifty Shades of Felt

Page 2 of 2

See also: Th [sic] Sense: No Class! Preps Us for Summer with Bodily Fluid Sketches Galore

The execution: Part of this show is a surprisingly faithful and straightforward telling of the first third and a little of the second third of the love story of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. As puppeteered and acted by Devon Nickel and Amber Luallen, the two young lovers are actually more sympathetic than their creator (E L James, a.k.a. Erika Leonard, a.k.a. Snowqueens Icedragon, who, let's be fair, did not ask for all this notoriety to happen) was able to depict them on the page, which is not really even a little surprising at all.

Commenting hysterically around the edges is writer/director and All Puppets honcho Shaun Michael McNamara, through the other characters, including Ana's Inner Goddess (a hairy fuchsia thing) and Subconscious (a panda. And Ana's dad looks like a Pig in Space. I'm so glad the companies practiced inclusive puppet casting). In any case, Ana's/James' narrative voice has been minimized, and that alone makes the play super-tolerable and often amusing.

And, as a bonus, the script does its best to make the goings-on as filthy as one might hope, as opposed to as tame as they originally turned out to be (damn you, books!). While it isn't the raunchiest play or even the raunchiest puppet show I've ever seen, it drives home (ahem) the pandering, somewhat gratuitous nature of the tiny sprinkle of BDSM it does contain. Between consenting adult puppets. Thank you, Zorba's.

Since All Puppets uses the Avenue Q/Sesame Street style of puppet that typically ends at the waist, creativity is necessary to depict some sex acts. Such creativity is in abundance. Comic homages to romantic films and goofily self-conscious references to the nature of theater and puppetry abound, as well.

I'm also impressed with the performers' technical proficiency. The puppeteers who operate Inner Goddess and Subconscious -- characters who never leave their alcove at one side of the stage -- somehow operated other puppets several yards away from time to time without drawing any attention to the fact that their main puppets must have been left "empty" at least once or twice.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Julie has written for the Night & Day events calendar section since 2005. As a student at Arizona State, she received the Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Creative Writing Award and the Theatre Medallion of Merit.
Contact: Julie Peterson