Stan’s Café “The Cardinals” Review – Puppets Telling Bible Stories


There’s a claim, perhaps apocryphal, that puppets in England got so darn funny and pushing the boundaries (e.g. Spitting Images) because puppets could never be accused of slander.  The story goes that the Royal Family safeguarded their image from naysayers but kept their mitts off puppets. 


True or not, it perhaps goes a long way to explaining the sacrilegious motherlode of Stan’s Café’s “The Cardinals”, which manages to skewer the three major Western religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 



The story line is that of three Cardinals telling the stories of the bible—old and new—with few words and with the help of an Islamic woman who emanates capability in contrast to the Cardinals’ charming bungling. 



The Cardinals are in the puppet theater and are the main puppet actors.



If you know your Bible you will constantly be charmed.    If you know your Monty Python you’ll definitely get an extra kick.



Whether it is Jesus walking on water, Noah getting word from God to ready for the flood, Moses leading the Israelites from Israel while the ruffling blue silk curtain drowns pharaohs armies, re-enactment of the crusades in puppet battle scenes, or the Ascension – you KNOW that this is not a show for fundamentalist religious followers of any persuasion.




Taking on the apocalypse and Revelations, this irreverent puppet show takes a sharp turn to political commentary. 



We are at checkpoints in Jerusalem, puppet drones are overhead, and the refusal of their capable Islamic assistant to act out scenes that are not part of the Koran become part of the story—as she too becomes a puppet.


In the post-show discussion Peter Taub, who oversees the MCA Stage Events, reminded us how so much of Western art grew from the Church needing pictoral representations of the Bible to inculcate the faith in the illiterate masses.   This show alone went a long way in helping the 1st Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival define that we no longer are seeing your parents’ puppet theater.


MCA Stage has nine more events in their 2015 season—all outside-the-box takes on dance, theater, film and more.  For tickets call 312 397 4010 or visit the MCA Stage webpages




Photos:  Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago, unless otherwise indicated.




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