La MaMa, NY, NY- 2021 Puppet Festival Series
review by Stefano Bancato
There was a lyricism to the storytelling, beautifully weaving dance, puppetry, acting, and projection into the narrative.
Originally published in The Puppetry Journal (Fall 2021 Vol. 72 No. 4)
Lunch With Sonia, written and directed by Federico Restrepo and Denise Greber of the Loco7 Dance Puppet Theatre Company, was one of the festival’s most successful productions. There was a lyricism to the storytelling, beautifully weaving dance, puppetry, acting, and projection into the narrative. This heartfelt piece, based on Restrepo’s real-life Aunt Sonia, is the story of a woman who decides to end her long battle with an illness through euthanasia. Sonia’s family is left to grapple with her unapologetic decision. Tensions run high as family members argue amongst themselves, some in support of Sonia, others believing she must be stopped.
Sonia, a towering and robust woman, is portrayed by a three-person puppet and voiced by Beatriz Pizano. Together, puppeteers and Pizano create a character that lives, breathes, and feels. Their skill is among the best I’ve seen.
Restrepo served as narrator and dancer, and plays the role of Sonia’s nephew. Restrepo’s choreography is expressive and nuanced. Where words fail, dance embodied the more subtle and vulnerable aspects of the story. A fantastic ensemble of actor-puppeteer-dancers, who animated a variety of characters and embodied emotional moments through expressive modern dance, supported him. The show opened with a pas de deux between Restrepo and a small, three-person puppet made of wire. The puppet, which may have represented the spirit of Sonia, leapt and danced in elegant harmony with its human dance partner.
Amidst the tender humanity, there were moments of joyful humor. Restrepo tickled the audience into laughter as he animated Sonia’s ragtag, teenage relatives—composed of several dangling string puppets all mounted on one control rod, jiggling and juggling their limbs to life.
While Lunch With Sonia had the occasional moment that dragged, the solid narrative and wonderful ensemble restored the momentum, offering a memorable, intimate experience.