THEATER | Take “Flight” with Kevin Kling and Michael Sommers at Open Eye Theatre

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Open Eye Figure Theatre jumpstarts its 10th anniversary season this weekend by presenting Kevin Kling’s new work Flight, a poignant collection of stories about courage, risk, and the love of life. The stories are bookmarked with gorgeous music arranged and performed by Michelle Kinney, Simone Perrin, and Jacqueline Ultan, and stunning puppetry by Michael Sommers.

The collaboration between Open Eye and Kling, which began three years ago when Kling didn’t make the lottery for the Fringe Festival, has developed into a unique rapport. Sommers, who directed the scenography of the production in addition to the puppetry, supports Kling’s stories with imagery that accentuates both the charm and heartbreaking nature of Kling’s storytelling. The puppetry never outshines the stories but rather extends them to a level of rare beauty.

flight, presented through august 10 at open eye theatre, 506 e. 24th st., minneapolis. for tickets ($15) and information, see openeyetheatre.org.

Kling begins the evening with a series of antitheses: He explains that the stories he is about to tell will contain mythos, not logos (or logic); he describes the difference between ducks that dabble on the surface of the water, who can take flight at any moment, and those that dive deep underground and have to gain momentum along the surface of the lake before taking to the air; and finally he contrasts two definitions of happiness: his own definition, which is a state of euphoria, and that of his friend, which is the absence of fear. By beginning the evening with these contrasting concepts, Kling asks the question: is it better to be safe and unafraid, or is it more worthwhile to take a risk, to close your eyes and take a leap, and see what amazing things life can bring?

The highlight of the show is when Kling tells a story that he says he had never told before: the story of his stay at a Shriners’ hospital as a young boy. Kling, who was born with a congenital birth defect in which his left arm is three-quarters the size of his right arm and his left hand has no wrist or thumb, describes feeling as a child that he didn’t want to get surgery for his arm, because he believed it was what made him special.

Later, Sommers performs The Wing, which features a large white puppet operated by sticks. The puppet depicts a man with an arm on one side of his body and a wing on the other. Sommers’s image of a man taking flight with one wing is absolutely breathtaking and fulfills the spirit of Kling’s theme of embracing life, of letting go, of being free.

Throughout the performance, cellists Michelle Kinney and Jacqueline Ultan provide sound effects such as loon sounds, and also lovely musical accompaniment. Simone Perrin’s graceful voice gives a joyful quality to the transitions between stories.

So if you’re not too worn out by the Fringe, I highly recommend checking this new work out. It’s a creative, intelligent, and emotionally engaging piece of theater made by a team of artists who work very well together.

Sheila Regan (sheila@tcdailyplanet.net) is a Minneapolis theater artist and freelance writer.

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