Michael Sommers has again dug into the rich vein of Germanic literature for inspiration. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," which opened last weekend at Open Eye Figure Theatre, bears Sommers' signature old-European patina: intense craftsmanship, a sense of mystery and comprehensive artistry. His eye for detail is unerring, and one always gets the idea he has tumbled the whole show around in his soul many times before giving life to it on stage. His sweat and joy are evident.
The old Goethe poem is most familiar to modern tastes through Disney's iconic sequence in the 1940 film "Fantasia." A mischievous apprentice misuses his master's power and in a trice finds himself in a sea of trouble. Sommers straps on a bit more plot and a third character, leaving us with a portrait of youthful impatience and indiscretion, the responsibility of power and the inescapable path of knowledge through experience.
This is largely a marionette show, engineered by Kyle Hunter with moments of human magic that bring out the fairy tale. Michael Murnane has delicately lit the tiny jewel-box set, and a four-person band performs an absolutely essential score composed by Eric Jensen. Sound designer Sean Healey, costumer Susan Haas and scenic artist Jim Muirhead are key collaborators in creating an immersive experience.
Goethe's poem is a slim tale, and if there is a deficiency in Open Eye's 55-minute production, it lies in narrative inertia. Several vignettes run into dead ends before the dramatic flywheel finally takes over as the apprentice finds himself drowning in delusions of his own power.
Do not, however, let that deter you from sampling Open Eye's aesthetic -- one of the most distinctive flavors in Twin Cities theater. As he did with "A Prelude to Faust," Sommers resonates with the Middle European tradition with great authenticity.