Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Hey Leonardo.

So Edmondson and I just left the opening night of AVANTI, DA VINCI! at the Center for Puppetry Arts, and, I will admit it, I didn't know what to expect from the show. It was well-reviewed by better critics than me last year, so I figured it would be fun. But everything I've seen at the Center since Puppetgate has been experimental and a little off-the-wall.

Frankly, I didn't know if I'd see a show that reminded me of the puppet shows of my youth ever again. You know, something like THE MUPPET SHOW. Or, hell, something where the puppeteers remained completely out-of-sight.

I was telling Edmondson earlier that I probably first went to the Center when I was in elementary school. He'd never been before tonight. That's what happens when you spend your childhood out of Atlanta. You miss out on the best field trips. Like Zoo Atlanta when Willie B. was alive ... and you didn't notice the smell. Or the Alliance Theatre when Tom Key starred in everything. Or the narrated constellation exhibit at the old Fernbank, before they got dinosaurs and martinis. Or the Human Body exhibit at the High Museum, complete with the ear that you could ride. Or the laser show at Stone Mountain, when they played "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Or the Cyclorama before you were old enough to notice that the turntable seats weren't the coolest thing on Earth and that the figurines weren't creepy.

Damn it, Edmondson just said that, at his elementary school on the U.S. military base in Germany, they went on a field trip to Vienna. Oh, and then there was that time he was a hostage in that Tehran hotel when he was, like, 4. So his field trips, I guess, beat the crap out of the Cyclorama.

Anyway, so we saw AVANTI, DA VINCI!, and it was hilarious. And there were five different stages all at once. And it was like THE DA VINCI CODE meets the cheesy, Joel Schumacher take on BATMAN (except it was cool). And there was sex. Lots and lots of kinky puppet sex. Incestuous sex. Wicked bondage sex. Sex with animals. Sex with a giant snake.

So now we're sitting at a Buckhead sidewalk cafe, discussing the show while people discuss other things all around us on their cell phones. (One Mexican man is picking up some random woman on Lavalife, methinks, wooing her with talk of three-ways with his wife. And another guy is talking about how BATMAN BEGINS is about George W. Bush. Seriously. I wish I was at a Parisian café instead. That way, if the conversation were still stupid, I wouldn't be able to understand it. My French isn't good.)

Edmondson just said he doesn't want to be quoted. So instead, I'll just say that he laughed a lot during the show. And, at one point, the show's blacklight made Edmondson's shirt glow blue during one of the dungeon scenes.

Anyway, so the plot of AVANTI, DA VINCI! lets for the show to be informative, creative and ridiculous, all at the same time.

During his life, the show supposes, artist-scientist-artisan-playwright Leonardo da Vinci also took time off from studying and writing everything down to save Florence from the forces of evil as masked super-hero Renaissance Man!

Da Vinci's primary foes are the Borgia family in Rome, including the slutty Lucretia Borgia, her brother Cesare, and her father, the Pope. Leonardo has to save his favorite actress, Mona Lisa, from perpetual kidnappers and the dungeon in the Vatican.

The music is good. The story is mostly lively. Even though there are some slow parts, the show never feels bogged down. And there's always something new or interesting to see.

Fighting evil allows Da Vinci to fly, drive the DaVinciMobile, take out enemy ships, and perform BMX stunts.

Da Vinci's actual blueprints and inventions make for some excellent puppet models, which allow the show to be both beautiful and really, really funny at the same time.

But the best part of AVANTI, DA VINCI! to me was that it creates its own world, a world with an entirely different set of rules, and it brings its audience into that world. You get lost in it enough to eventually forget that it's a puppet show. You see only characters. The puppeteers remain out of sight. The show's focus is its story. And, because of that, it just becomes fun, entirely convincing theater.

For me, it was like when Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy were alive, not just felt designed by really brilliant artists.

It's a puppet show that made me feel like a little kid - while, at the same time, it kept me alert with tons of dirty jokes.

AVANTI, DA VINCI!, aside from being visually amazing and incredibly clever, just wants to entertain. And that's a great thing.

Oh wait, there was just a car accident on Peachtree in front of us. God, I wish I was in Paris.


Edmondson helped me by posting this from his house after we left the scene of the accident. Thanks to Sydney for the tickets to the show, and thanks to Edmondson for being Statler to my Waldorf.

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