The Construction Cabaret

Yes, they're puppets made from tools, but the show's not for the whole family


Through Jan. 3

Tickets are $15-20


New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F.

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Liebe Wetzel's found-object puppetry tends to be a family event, with skit after skit of funny items doing funny things, or else an oddly serious silent show about, say, racism. The Construction Cabaret is neither: not serious, and not for the whole family, although to be honest only a couple of skits here would offend a 9-year-old's sensibility. (Foam strips have sex; a pair of boots, a hard hat, and a tool belt strip to throbbing dance music.) For the most part the Cabaret is a series of movement pieces suggested to Wetzel by domestic hardware. A lizard made out of hand spades slithers out of the toolbox; a deer built of wrenches returns a misfired shell to an aggressive hunter. Company members in black hoods manipulate all the items, like bunraku puppeteers, and the best skits will remind you of Edward Gorey's Amphigorey, with its alarmed needles and suicidal buttons. (The worst feel like a bad idea from Sesame Street.) The most engaging piece here is an underwater fantasy in blue light with mop-head jellyfish, rolling-pin turtles, and – literally – a hammerhead shark.

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