CASHORE MARIONETTES; Brigham Young University department of theatre; Harris Fine Arts Pardoe Theatre; through Sept. 25 with two matinees; tickets $8/$6 available at www.byuarts.com; running time 90 minutes (60 minutes for Saturday matinees) with one intermission.
PROVO — Joseph Cashore cannot help but succeed.
He's supported by a cast of clever, talented marionettes with expressive movements, appealing faces and stories to tell that include humor, pathos and heart.
The fact that Cashore created each one and gives them life through the many strings attached to their limbs and ears and tails is beside the point.
Here is a truly unusual act.
The amazingly articulated marionettes seem to become actual tiny people and, in this case, an elephant and a horse.
They walk and dance and kick the trashcan and/or bundle in frustration.
One tries to fly on the trapeze when the real trapeze artist stubs his toe.
Another attempts to woo her fussy baby (who kicks tiny feet and waves tiny arms) to sleep in her cradle.
An old woman says a sweet floral goodbye to her husband in his grave while an old homeless, hungry man sobs on a park bench after he finds nothing in the trash bin.
The stories are entertaining and set to the kind of music that beautifully dubs in emotion from the likes of Vivaldi, Copland, Verdi and Haydn.
They are mostly short but pack a powerful message.
"The Job" will strike a chord with people working in today's world as the big boss keeps changing the task and demanding the impossible.
Johnny Lobotomy and his smoking amp, aggravated by Johnny's rocking on his electric guitar, will make many the parent of a teenager smile.
The marionettes in "The Quest" and "Old Mike, No Address" and Ramul in "The Encounter" look to Cashore for comfort and help. That adds an interesting realism.
And while there's a certain amount of nostalgia and loss in several of the stories, there's also plenty of sage humor.
There's also the fascination in watching Cashore keep all of his strings straight as his characters fly a kite, trot and gallop, pick up pots and try to climb inside a basket.
For older children and adults, this is an evening to see, a rarity.
And a fine expression of unique talent.
A spokesman for Baylin Artists Management said the Cashore Marionettes will probably return to BYU in November 2011.