A Little Puppet Show with Music 

Mark Growden meets the Wise Fool puppets and Il Teatro Calamari at the Noodle Factory.

Warm yourself up to the beginning of winter with a bewitching combination of scintillating music and puppetry. Hear the intoxicating strains of Mark Growden's mischievous arrangements mingle with the evocative creations of Wise Fool and Il Teatro Calamari puppetry companies, promising "new and lightly used works" for your sensual pleasure, Wednesday night at the Oakland Noodle Factory.

The rapturous evening is the brainchild of Wise Fool Puppet Intervention, known mostly for its vibrantly costumed stilt-walkers and giant puppets looming majestically above parades and demonstrations. Artistic director Ruby K. Ruby describes the imagery as "visual poetry. It's not a linear story, and yet it evokes story. We combine stilt-walking and shadow puppetry and small puppets and giant puppets, and really try to break out of the box of what people think puppets are and what they can do."

One of the ways Wise Fool accomplishes that is by crafting innovative and entertaining works on mundane themes, as in the piece Laundry. "It's all different variations on the theme of laundry," Ruby explains. "We do really silly things, like our set is a laundry line and we use that laundry line in a bunch of different ways. We bring in other puppets and the laundry becomes a shadow-puppet screen and a lot of different things happen. So there's a real focus on scale and transformation."

The rare evening includes another Wise Fool piece, Inside Every Bird, inspired by a collaboration with local troubadour Growden, who will accompany the work. "I always saw puppets going to that song," says Ruby of Growden's "Inside Every Bird," from his album Inside Beneath Beyond. "So about three years ago we created a puppet piece to go with that music. Again, we combined all of these different elements -- everything from giant puppets to a stilt-walker that becomes a shadow-puppet screen -- and it's very playful, very colorful, and very heartwarming."

Il Teatro Calamari, recently relocated to the Bay Area from Portland, will present its adaptation of The Match Girl, "which is a traditional Christmas tale," Ruby explains. "But I can really guarantee that it's not going to be traditional, however they decide to present it. They do a lot of object manipulation where they use things other than puppets to create images that come to life." Il Teatro Calamari uses shadow puppets, actors, and a modified bunraku style of puppetry, which Ruby explains is a "Japanese tradition where it's almost like the puppet is a doll and it's brought to life by the puppeteer."

After The Match Girl, composer and multi-instrumentalist Growden returns to the stage for a full set of his torrid lyricism and fierce, accordion-driven rascality. His live shows, confrontational and sweetly comforting, full of uplifting dirges and alternating between uncomfortable intensity and sly humor, are becoming the stuff of legend. That said, it must be noted that this is a show intended for adults, even though children are welcome. It's not certain whether the often erotic-minded Growden will present a kiddy-appropriate performance; however, children of all ages will surely enjoy the magical offerings of Wise Fool and Il Teatro Calamari. 8 p.m., doors at 7 for a pre-show with mulled wine and hot cider. The Oakland Noodle Factory, 1255 26th St. at Union, West Oakland. $5-$10 sliding scale, kids $3. Information and reservations: 415-905-5958.


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