Review: The Ugly Duckling



Lightwire Theater created The Ugly Duckling
  • Lightwire Theater created The Ugly Duckling

Last year, Lightwire Theater amazed everyone who saw its original puppet show Darwin the Dinosaur. It was for kids of all ages, myself included.

Lightwire’s puppets are actually human performers dressed in black wearing electroluminescent colored wires to outline characters. The visual effect is spectacular, and Lightwire takes things a step further by presenting engaging stories. Audiences care about the characters and love the many comic side effects.

Lightwire’s new show, The Ugly Duckling, is once again a total delight. The company opened the show after returning from the semi-finals of NBC’s America’s Got Talent and have been invited to a fiesta of Talent winners in Las Vegas.

The new show begins with The Tortoise and the Hare, Aesop’s fable about a race between a slow-but-steady turtle and an overconfident rabbit. The fable refines the ancient Greek fear of hubris, or overweening pride. The Hare believes he cannot possibly lose, and he gets distracted from the race by whatever comes along — in this modern version, his cellphone, a TV set and finally a clump of carrots. Eventually he dashes to the finish line, but the Tortoise beats him by a hair.

This summary fails to capture the flavor of the show. There’s plenty of music, dancing, singing and gags. The staging is unique, and the colored outlines are not garish but poetic.

Hans Christian Andersen’s
The Ugly Duckling also gets a makeover. “We didn’t want it to be just about beauty,” Eleanor Carney said in a talkback session after the show. “I’m a boy. I wanted a fight,” said Ian Carney, her husband, who choreographed and directed the show. The Carneys are founding members of the troupe.

So the ugly duckling does not simply grow into a beautiful adult. She rescues one of the real ducklings from the clutches of a cat. This entails a thrilling ninja battle of beasts, in which the Ugly Duckling uses a trash can cover as a shield against the cat’s bamboo staff.

All ends happily amid a tumult of good feelings and gratitude. Ian Carney and Corbin Popp created the show. It’s performed by the troupe in ingenious costumes they built from shin guards, skateboards and other materials. Lightwire Theater is producing excellent work. Don’t miss this show.

Through Sept. 30
The Ugly Duckling
2 p.m. & 7 p.m. Sat.; 2 p.m. & 6 p.m. Sun.
Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528-3800

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