"Transposition," a visually stunning performance piece under the direction of Dadi D. Pudumjee, gets the fall puppet festival at La MaMa off to a vivid start. Offered by the Ishara Puppet Theatre from India (which is purported to be the country's leading modern puppet theatre), the show is strong on style but short on understandable substance.
Of course there is meant to be a story, which is acted out by dancers and puppeteers. The piece is based on a classical Indian love story adapted by Rashna Imhasly Gandhy from her book "The Psychology of Love: Wisdom of Indian Mythology." It deals with two young men of opposite temperaments who love the same girl, thus setting the stage for a romantic triangle.
But if one does not have access to advance information about the piece, the story is difficult to follow, despite the earnest efforts of dancers Swapan Mazumdar, Pooja Sharma, and Sudesh Adhana and their puppet counterparts.
No matter. The dancers offer inspired performances that range from the rousing to the lyrical, showing off their considerable virtuosity. Though created by the dancers themselves, these dance numbers give strong indications of India's rich and varied regional dance traditions.
And it is quite enough to drink in the sensual and aesthetic imagery. The puppets themselves, designed by Pudumjee, are unique, life-size creatures attached to the puppeteers. Each wears a puppet's torso and head, with his own body clearly in evidence. The puppets' arms are attached and manipulated by each puppeteer. The effect is of a two-layered person. At times the puppets replicate the dancers, with both groups acting out scenes.
Most striking of all is a huge, godlike figure presiding in the background, presumably determining the fates of the humans.
In all, it is quite enough to gaze upon, and listen to, this strange, haunting piece from another land, another culture.