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THE ALTERNATIVES

Pulling strings but not punches

September 13, 2007|Elina Shatkin

Between the raunchy puppet sex in "Team America" and racy puppet musical "Avenue Q," puppetry has been rediscovered as bona fide adult entertainment rather than mere childhood diversion.

"Many of us do children's television, but when there aren't kids around, we do things that we think are funny. And puppets doing naughty things are always funny," says actress, singer and puppeteer Donna Kimball, with a glint in her eye.

As part of the Farmlab presentation "Puppets After Hours," Kimball will perform as Maxine, a full-body, bunraku-style praying mantis puppet who preys on men, looking for big, throbbing brains to feast on.

Originating out of midnight puppet slams (not as naughty as that sounds), this adult-themed puppet cabaret will feature some of L.A.'s top puppeteers -- Bill Bryan (the Staypuft Marshmallow Man in "Ghostbusters"), Tim Blaney (the voice of Frank the Pug in "Men in Black") and the Chiodo Brothers (whose résumé includes everything from "Team America" to cult fave "Killer Klowns From Outer Space") -- riffing the way they often do when the cameras aren't looking. Encompassing styles including marionette, bunraku, shadow play, ventriloquism and traditional hand-and-rod puppets, the vignettes are edgy, political and sometimes sexual.

"Susie's Sure Thing" features a groundhog serenading the love of his life: a blowup doll. The McLarsen Trio, a family of country-western crusaders promoting "a more American America," will perform a medley of edifying songs. And Ah-nuld the Governator will be on hand alongside space aliens, Angelina Jolie and a ventriloquist possessed by Satan.

Created by Kimball, her husband Frank Langley IV (who both helped manipulate the Doc Oc puppet in "Spider Man 2") and filmmaker-designer Jordan Albert, the show takes place outdoors under the Spring Street Bridge. Don't mind the passing trains.

-- Elina Shatkin

"Puppets After Hours," Farmlab, 1745 N. Spring St., No. 4, L.A. Doors open 7:30 p.m. Saturday with interactive puppetry and short films, performance at 8:30 p.m., music by Glank at 9:30 p.m. Free; not suitable for children. www.farmlab.org

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