Created by Ashur Rayis, Rachel Schapira, and Andy Manjuck
Directed by Andy Manjuck
Produced by Eat Drink Tell Your Friends
Off Off Broadway, Puppet Show
Runs through 4.2.17
The Tank, 151 West 46th Street
by Katharine Nedder on 3.22.17
A scene from Photo & Supply,
BOTTOM LINE: A thought-provoking and unique theatrical experience, Photo & Supply illuminates difficulties faced by small business owners and urban culture.
There is something about a puppet show that can transport an audience from a typical proscenium theater into a new type of cartoon universe. Photo & Supply creates a small world complete with its own set of norms, customs, language, and inhabitants all within the walls of what seems to be a typical photo store stuck in the middle of a gentrifying neighborhood.
The shop's owner is Phyllis, a stern but passionate aging woman, emphasized by sound effects and her puppet's unique physicality. This woman works extraordinarily hard to keep her establishment in tip-top shape, spending her days developing film for customers like the apparently affluent Lady and her Dog. These frequent customers provide excellent comic relief (the dog is very lively!) and serve as stark contrast to Phyllis. Phyllis works closely with Shrinky, the janitor, whose bright green coloring, retractable neck (hence his clever name), and squeaky window washing bring even more laughs and levity to the production.
The tides turn for Phyllis when she receives an eviction notice, brilliantly designed as a puppet with a balloon for a head. She seems unaffected, though Shrinky shows his dismay. This eviction notice seems fragile, but has a way of constantly coming back to life and floating unapologetically through the shop without a care for Phyllis’ treasures—a fascinating metaphor.
From here, Phyllis takes on the weighty task of packing up her photo shop, all the while reliving her memories. The past blends with the present as Phyllis goes through years and years of photographs all developed in her “pop-up” dark room (a quite realistic and creatively designed subsection of the photo shop that appears with the tap of a foot).
Through Phyllis’ slow journey to come to terms with her eviction, the company does an excellent job shedding light onto the harsh realities of gentrification, using their hands to manipulate a small-scale set of Phyllis’ neighborhood (a line of extremely detailed buildings set on an opposite side of the stage). These nuanced beats, the only time human flesh is visible, are extremely poignant and well done.
As the neighborhood around her continues to change, Phyllis becomes increasingly aware of her reality—all depicted by the movements of her puppet, as her expression never alters and her only conversations remain gibberish. The company members also personify everyday objects—boxes, old photo scraps—to breathe more and more life into these suffocating memories.
Photo & Supply uses puppetry to physicalize what gentrification means to shop owners—something extremely difficult to express in more typical mediums—and conveys this tragic message seamlessly and beautifully. The work, skill, and wide knowledge base creators Rachel Schapira and Ashur Rays put into this production is apparent in every gesture, scene transition, and attention to detail. The unwaveringly in-sync company (Macklen Mayse, Ashur Rayis, Rachel Schapira, and Gabrielle Schutz) leave their hearts and souls on the stage, and in fifty minutes completely transform the theater space and bring to it an entire lifetime.
(Photo & Supply plays at The Tank, 151 West 46th Street, through April 2, 2017. The running time is 50 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Thursdays through Sundays at 7. Tickets are $18 and are available at thetanknyc.org. For more information eatdrinktellyourfriends.com.)
Photo & Supply is created by Rachel Schapira and Ashur Raymis. Directed by Andy Manjuck. Assistant Direction by Dorothy James. Lighting Design is by Brittany Spencer.
The cast of puppeteers is Rachel Schapira, Ashur Rayis, Gabrielle Schutz, Macklen Mayse, and Rachael Shane.