The most magnificent things are often created with the simplest tools. The Man Who Planted Trees is a beautiful and heartfelt tale about the power of small gestures to make a remarkable difference in the world and tells the story of an old man who single-handedly transforms a wind parched wasteland into a thriving oasis of beauty and life. The show was performed at the Orange County Performing Arts Center by a cheerful duo of Scotsmen from the Puppet State Theater Company. I had seen the elegantly animated Academy Award winning charcoal drawn short by the same name that came out years ago and long regarded it as one of my favorites, so I was excited to see what this production did with the story using their brand of simple yet distinctive handmade puppets and props on a small stage.
The production was surprisingly minimalistic- A few burlap cloths and a set of woven reed rug beaters peaking over an unassuming boxy tan platform. Perched on one of the men’s arms was a scraggly hand-puppet dog, peering out into the audience with smooth black eyes. Slowly though these basic elements take on a life of their own, layer after layer gets stripped away to reveal a lush, verdant, world that transforms and grows before your eyes . What struck me most was how wonderfully interactive the experience was, performers came right out into the audience, inviting you to immerse yourself with all your senses as scented lavender and the smell of fresh sprigs wafts through the air and a fine mist of water sprinkles down from above and onto the faces and outstretched hands of squealing children, while a bright flock of feather birds flies overhead, so close you can feel the wind of their wings against your cheek. Adults and children alike were enthralled and delighted.
For a schedule of touring performances and discover their other shows visit http://puppetstate.com.