‘War Horse’ is an emotional journey; ‘Dragons’ in town

War Horse

Go see “War Horse.” That’s the best advice I can give you for this season of theatre.

This is one of the most emotionally dramatic stagings of a show this millennium.

Taken from a children’s story by Michael Morpurgo and adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford in association with Hand Spring Puppet Company, “War Horse” evolves into a story of the consequences of love, bonding, the horror of what war can do – and, most of all, magnificent creativity.

The story is simple: a boy is given a colt and a strong bond is formed. Joey, the adult horse, is sold to the cavalry and sent to France as World War I begins. He is captured by the Germans, becomes friends with another horse, Topthorn, and they go through the horrors of war. The boy goes off to find his horse.

Sounds simple and basic. What isn’t simple and basic are the puppets that create the horses. They are amazing and become more than puppets … They really should invent another word for these creatures. They are more than puppets; they are stars of the show that bring emotion from an audience of theatre-goers – most that have seen it all.

After a successful London run, “War Horse” opened on Broadway and received five Tony Awards in 2011 including Best Play. The critical acclaim went to its life-sized horse puppets from Handspring Puppet Company from South Africa. They are mesmerizing and compelling and will make you laugh and cry and grip your seat when they are in peril. Each is made from leather and steel, and operated by three people who give the creatures feelings and sound. They become actual horses to the audience. Look for a puppet goose that’s a scene stealer.  The intricate timing that must be involved to make this whole thing work is truly incredible.

U.S. tour director Bjan Sheibani carries the production with the same flow of the original directors – Tom Morris and Marianne Elliott – and makes this a piece of theater that will not be forgotten. This whole production, with a first-rate cast, is well done and the anticipation of a great evening of grand theater is realized. Don’t miss this one.

Where: Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco
Through: Sept. 9
Tickets: $31-$100
Details: 888-746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com

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