- Last Updated: 12:11 AM, July 20, 2012
- Posted: 10:40 PM, July 19, 2012
Clark Studio Theatre, 165 W. 65th St.; 212-721-6500. Through July 25.
It hits you when the angel puppet with the Queen fixation starts warbling “We Will Rock You”: The Lincoln Center Festival brings us shows from all over the world for its annual showcase, and this is the best it could find?
That scene is the low point of Yeung Faï’s “Hand Stories.” The show’s virtuosic puppetry can’t redeem the overall cloying whimsy.
A fifth-generation puppeteer, Yeung tells the history of his family in this mostly wordless show — there are short bits in English and untranslated Chinese, as well as brief video segments.
In a series of vignettes, Yeung and co-puppeteer Yoann Pencolé bring to life decades of Chinese history intermingled with Yeung family lore.
Mind you, the meaning isn’t always obvious. Reading the program notes is the only way to figure out that a slithering dragon is meant to represent Mao’s destructive Cultural Revolution. Or that when Yeung throws pieces of paper in the air, he’s honoring his dead father’s soul. If you say so.
The show’s most enjoyable moments are the set pieces that strive solely to entertain, especially since Yeung can make his small, intricately detailed glove puppets do amazing things.
One segment could have been lifted from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” down to the slo-mo aerial fighting.
In another winning feat, the puppets spin plates, as if in a teeny, tiny circus.
The overall effect is charming, and quite different from the more familiar Japanese puppet style known as bunraku, which uses larger figures.
But these are short-lived moments. The rest of the time, the show bogs down in clumsy symbolism, and assumes that a ponderous snail’s pace automatically means it’s art.
Not when you also have an angel singing Queen.