A puppetry tale about the aching journey of grief unravels as a luminous poem in “Queen,” presented by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre.
Centered on a black woman who has lost her grandson to gun violence, the piece entrances with a swell of imagery told through words and a multitude of visual delights.
The text, by Erik Ehn and Junauda Petrus, is spoken mostly by Laurie Carlos’ smoothly resonant narrator, while Petrus herself provides the voice of the grandmother while also acting as puppeteer. While not linear, the story makes a kind of dreamlike sense, filled with archetypal spirit animals, witches, ghosts and trees that talk.
Under Alison Heimstead’s meticulous direction, there’s a sense of anything being possible in terms of imagery, but also an acute attention to detail. The puppeteers, who also include Steve Ackerman, Julie Boada and Masanari Kawahara, fold their miniature world inside out and open it up again, using everyday and also abstract objects. They even use their bodies as architecture, as the grandmother’s surreal visions come to life.
Music directors Matt Larson and Taylor Johnson, along with vocalists Mari Fitch and Selah Obinrin, provide the haunting score, with the puppeteers occasionally joining in song.
One tip: The Avalon Theatre’s space is cavernous and the grandmother puppet, made by Gustavo Boada, is quite small, so you’ll want to sit toward the front to get the full experience.
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis critic and arts journalist.