Friday, August 17, 2007

Favorite Fringe So Far: Miracle on Monroe Street

One of the greatest things about mining hundreds of New York Fringe Festival offerings is chancing upon an unexpected theatrical gem. Such was the case yesterday with The Miracle on Monroe Street. Not that I didn't expect the play to be delightful - I'd met creator, writer and puppeteer Jennifer Levine and her joyous energy let me know I was in for fun. But I had no idea that I would be so moved by the magical tale of her Grandmother's experiences growing up on the Lower East Side - and told through handcrafted puppets.

But moved I was, as well as tickled to full-on laughter, as were adults and children alike at the near-jam-packed Studio @ Cherry Lane Theater. We were taken back to the early 1900's to the childhood of Grandma Pearl and her mischievous younger sister. When the youngster steals a local baker's treat and escapes to a tenement rooftop, it is left to Pearl to steer her fate after she tumbles from on high - to become a Miracle Child.

In Europe, puppetry is a revered and respected craft, considered high art. Levine elevates it to such in The Miracle on Monroe Street, presenting her beloved creations with an ever-so-subtle breath of life. The story itself is beautifully universal, timeless and important, and explores New York City's immigrant experience as well as the bonds of family, beauty of forgiveness and role of religion in times of tragedy.

When the play ended, I was left desperately desiring further adventures of the delightful Pearl. Levine has said she envisions the piece as part of a trilogy, and we can only hope that she continues with this remarkable artistic vision. Shows continue on Sat 18 @8:30, Tue 21 @7:30, Sat 25 @8:30 at the Studio at Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce St. Get tix in advance!

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