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STAGE BEAT

'Paper Membrane'

December 12, 1986

Gary Jones introduces a group of "Yuppets" in "Paper Membrane, Scenes of Obsession" at his Blackstreet U.S.A. Puppet Theatre. He takes them through a series of gyrations in pursuit of the almighty dollar; it's supposed to be a commentary on the acquisitive values of young urban professionals.

The satire is less than scathing. For one thing, the puppets don't have that dress-for-success look; the clothes are too dowdy. The sound track is another problem. Though we see Jones and the Yuppets talking, we can't understand what they say.

Instead, all we hear is Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians," a trance-inducing score that's more appropriate for New Age meditation than for an analysis of young up-and-comers. Reich's music reinforces the repetitive elements of Jones' puppetry; "Paper Membrane" tends to become a big blur.

Much more successful is the piece that follows intermission, a revue of short musical numbers titled "Beginnings," featuring some of Jones' older puppets. Except for a brief ballet to "Clair de Lune," the songs are from the brassy or bluesy traditions of American show business, and the puppets come on like old-time blues mamas or dapper Broadway dancers.

Jones gives them their heads, and his "Sweet Georgia Brown" knocks him in the head in return, so fervent is her dancing. Jones is an ideal partner for these meticulously crafted creations; he supports them as needed, but he never forgets who's the star. His affection for them is endearing.

Performances are at 4619 W. Washington Blvd., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. (213-936-6091).

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