Alcatraz is a cat with a serious attitude, and a lot of friends. These friends also have issues of their own, which all come out in the hilarious improvised puppet show Friends of Alcatraz. You read that correctly, its a puppet show.
Friends of Alcatraz begins with the titular cat (played by actor/director/designer Kelly Vrooman) explaining the format of the show. The stage for Friends of Alcatraz is set up with a camera so that the audience may watch the puppeteers on their left, or a screen showing just the puppet action to the right. The set up lets the actors play with the space and the camera to make for an extremely visually interesting show. The cast uses the depth of the stage and the different size of puppets to fill in background characters and create a complete visual world around the puppet work, and audiences can see how they do it for themselves.
The technical work is just one of the excellent aspects of this show. The cast (Vrooman, along with Joe Sabatino, Jason Stockdale, Rob Cutler, and Dave Jadico) does a great job bringing the puppets to life and giving them each a depth and soul beyond their plush exterior. The design of the puppets helps in this, each crafted with a unique look that seems to draw the characters’ voices and personas out of the actors.
An audience member’s suggestion of “a breakup” when asked for something incredible that recently happend to them initially drew ridicule from Alcatraz the cat, but lead to a show full of relationships with their ups and downs, break-ups and make-ups and big laughs throughout.
Friends of Alcatraz is an extremely unique theater experience and is thoroughly satisfying for it’s comedy, showmanship, and presentation. Here’s hoping the end of it’s Fringe Festival run is not the last we see of Alcatraz and the gang.