Gangly and expressive, Venturi's puppets are handmade. Bob sports scraggly hair and glaring icy eyes over a torn and stained sweater. Emily's sexy glass cat-eyes gleam over her pressed blue postal uniform and heels, and Reynaldo's camouflage duds mark him as a mad militia type. The puppets' slightly enlarged heads, hands, and feet add a cartoonish note that's countered by their detailed, emotional faces, the focal points of the pleasant, living-room-size Dreamland Theater, which houses about forty colorfully mismatched chairs facing the upright-piano-size stage.
Onstage, Emily sings a dreamy, melancholy love song, "He left chemical traces in my heart, it is true . . . and these chemical traces may lead me to you." She and Bob dance at a unabomber convention complete with mirror ball, and Ted Koppel's hair appears, minus Ted Koppel ("It's a long story"), to bid on Bob's manifesto for a Dateline exclusive. After Reynaldo trashes Emily to Bob, asserting that she drinks Starbucks coffee, drives an SUV, and was spotted watching NBC and CNN news and "nodding approvingly," a crushed Bob spurns Emily as "nothing but a puppet, who twists and turns according to the capricious whims of imperialist dogma." Find out whether Bob and Emily's fragile love survives when Chemical Traces returns to Ypsilanti's Dreamland Theater on Saturday and Sunday, August 3 and 4.
[Originally published in August, 2002.]