“Wood Boy Dog Fish,” Rogue Artists Ensemble’s world-premiere at the Bootleg Theater, is not so much as play as a theatrical bombardment, a dizzying fusion of sound, lights, puppets, masks and music that has us wondering where to look next.
Playwright Chelsea Sutton, in collaboration with the ensemble, has loosely based the play on “Pinocchio” – not the Disney version, but Carlo Collodi’s dark cautionary tale about a mischievous marionette who falls victim to bad companions and his own bad judgement.
Under the marshalship of director Sean T. Cawelti, dozens of creative contributors collaborated on this undertaking. Kerry Hennessy and Lori Meeker deserve special mention for their whimsical costumes, as does Francois-Pierre Couture for his artfully skewed sets. One wishes, though, that a little more illumination could be shed in Brandon Baruch’s purposely murky lighting design.
Among the performers, Nina Silver stands out as a mysterious dead woman – the Blue Fairy in the original book. Miles Taber is also splendid as the deceptively jocose MC of Funland, whose jolly manner conceals dire intentions.
Yet, while one does not expect method performances in this heightened context, certain performers show an irritating tendency towards shallow stridency.
Credited to some half dozen designers, the Pinocchio puppet is a spectacular creation, and a penultimate “3-D” segment, replete with black lights and neon painted props, comprises a low-rent but wildly imaginative effect (although one suspects that, this particular evening, a blown cue prevented most in the audience from donning their special specs in time.)
CGI on a budget, this surreal allegory is a breathtaking feat of theater. Yet the human element occasionally is lost amidst the colorful, cacophonous swirl, and we are left wishing for a little less spectacle and a bit more heart.
“Wood Boy Dog Fish,” Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. 7 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays (dark Nov. 26 and 27). Also 2 p.m. Saturday Nov. 28 and Sunday Nov. 29. Ends Dec. 12. $25. (213) 596-9468. www.bootlegtheater.org. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.