A Tale of Three Wishes
Cry of the Rooster Theatre at Seattle Public Theatre, 524-1300. Through April 29.

The puppets recall Indonesian shadow theater, the tale is Yiddish (from prewar Poland), the set is spare, and the actors gleeful. A Tale of Three Wishes is a fable about kids who meet a being something like a dybbuk (or ghost) one night in their village graveyard. Rooted in the Yiddish tradition, the tale features a steady sense of Jewish reverence for God, a sense of awe about the world, and gentle humor. It also presents an Old World sensibility: that the beloved village rabbi's word is truth and cannot be questioned. (When immigrant Jews came to America and encountered this country's emphasis on individualism, innovation, and self-reliance, the power of the community rabbi was altered forever.) Cry of the Rooster puppet company tours its work extensively; this kids' show, based on a story by Issac Bashevis Singer, has been on the school and library circuit for almost a year.

Stage actors are often leery of traditional puppet theater, with its emphasis on crafts and communal aspects: Everyone, actors included, helps out with tasks like scene-painting, puppet-making, props, and the like. Both behind the scenes and from the audience risers, it's simply a different animal. Joshua Okrent, director of this show and a troupe member, described his primary reason for doing puppetry: "I want to help spread folk tales, and I love the communal aspect of the craft."

A Tale of Three Wishes is short, and excellent for kids over five or so. It mixes small bits of live stage acting with the puppetry, and the shadow characters are likely to do anything, even fly up to the sky while they're speaking. After the show, the sheepish-looking, exhilarated actors emerge from the curtains, ready to chat with the audience and exhibit their fine pressboard puppets--this charming, disarming act is another thing that makes the puppetry tradition unique.