Need a cleansing experience after that? The best antidote is Santa's Holiday for Strings: A Puppetry Extravaganza, a one-hour musical comedy confection by the Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts in the Studio space at Dallas Children's Theater. This one is definitely for kids—family-friendly, beautifully designed, and warm and witty in ways that appeal to audiences of all ages.

A marionette Santa Claus greets the audience with the puppeteer, Douglass Burks, in full view. He's followed by Frosty the Snowman, another marionette who "ice skates" all over the stage. A family of life-sized penguin puppets waddle out to do a charming jig.

Seeing the artists—Kathy Burks, Sally Fiorello, Patricia Long, Becky Burks Keenan, Ziggy Renner, Marco Salinas and B. Wolf—work the puppets is a lot of the fun of this show. They expertly, seamlessly transition among black-theater puppets (where the puppeteers, dressed all in black, are hidden out of the light), hand puppets, rod puppets, marionettes, black-light figures and the use of abstract shapes and fabrics in place of puppets.

Hell is beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Matthew Posey’s X-rated puppet play.
Hell is beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Matthew Posey’s X-rated puppet play.


Coppertone IV: Hell continues through December 19 at The Ochre House. Call 214-826-6273.

Santa’s Holiday for Strings: A Puppetry Extravaganza continues through December 22 at Dallas Children’s Theater. Call 214-740-0051.

Children at the sold-out performance reviewed laughed loudest and longest at a sequence involving a little Christmas tree and some errant decorations. Four shiny red ornaments roll away from the tree, bounce off a teddy bear's head and engage in a rhythmic ballet with a strand of shimmery silver garland. Enchanting.

Three ingeniously designed cat marionettes do a "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies." A "humanette" sings about wanting his two front teeth for Christmas. A lady armadillo shows how to decorate a cactus (watch for the puppet rattlesnakes). And "Ranger Bob," who borrows William H. Macy's dontcha-know accent from Fargo, enlists the audience's help in spotting some flying reindeer.

A G-rated delight and for all a good night.

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