by Morgan Lindsey Tachco · August 15, 2014
Little Mother is the story of a young girl, found wandering through a circus by a Strong Man, who names her Little Bird. He falls in love with her and gets her a job on the trapeze, but his affection for her is in competition with the powerful circus Ring Master. A tent fire sparks a spate of hard times, leading Little Bird to fend for her family by any means possible. To cope, she retreats to, and the story becomes woven with, fairy tale-like shadow puppet stories she’s created.
Billed as a ‘silent film for the stage,’ Little Mother is told through physicality, original music, and projection. The design is mostly in sepia and black and white, and dominated by a projected backdrop. The projections (unfortunately uncredited) are striking and well integrated to the piece. They weave in and out of dialogue projected against physicality, the circus they call home, and paper-cut shadow puppet stories.
Five actors round out the cast. Standouts here are the Strong Man (Max Dickter) and the Sad Clown (Matthew Mauer), each deftly using their physicality to aid in their storytelling ability. A beautiful original score by Shawn Jones accompanies and drives the performers, becoming an extension of the characters at times - violins ‘crying’ on the characters’ behalf is a lovely touch. The score consists of mostly piano and strings and is reminiscent of indie instrumental post-rock bands Dirty Three or Balmorhea.
Although Little Mother is visually and aurally charming, I did have a hard time engaging with the story itself. It is suggestive of vaudeville or burlesque stories, but told through the lens of nostalgic hipster sentiment that left me feeling a disconnect between the story and the visuals. Still, Little Mother is a promising fringe NYC debut by the young company Lust & Liberty