THE DAISY THEATRE by Ronnie Burkett (Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes/Luminato). At the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). Runs to June 23. $25-$35. 416-368-4849. See listings. Rating: NNNN
You never know in which direction Ronnie Burkett's The Daisy Theatre will sprout on any given evening. It might shoot to attack right-wing demagogues, or play naughtily with left-wing queer politics. Or, within a five-minute section, swerve from one to the other.
But it's all entertaining in the hands of the witty, inventive puppeteer, who blends cabaret numbers, scripts by well-known Canadian playwrights and improvised bits based on today's headlines. It's presented by the fascinating rep company of marionettes he manipulates and to whom he gives voice, heart and often a sharp tongue.
Burkett's doing the show each night during the run of Luminato, but no two performances will be the same.
Opening night was MC'd by Madeline Porterhouse, an udder-ly commanding cow who, when widowed by the death of her husband, Chuck, went off to Europe and bought The Daisy Theatre to bring back to Canada.
Burkett is sure to use his characters to throw a few barbs at the audience, Luminato, his own productions and public figures, including the Ford brothers. Madeline alluded, for instance, to a tape that showed her being milked by a pair of black Jerseys on Dixon Road.
His scripted playlet that night was by Anusree Roy, who joined him onstage to voice a controlling Indian father accompanying his daughter (Burkett, who also worked both puppets) on a date.
Speaking of manipulation, he twice pulled viewers onstage to help him act out scenes; one brave man joined him on the puppeteer's catwalk to work a puppet.
Among the characters appearing that night, none was more charming than Schnitzel, an innocent in a tutu, with a daisy growing out of his forehead; the lad's dream, which he confides to the puppet-master, is to have wings and fly. Later, a cross-dressing major general sang about the fairies at the bottom of his garden, and faded diva Esme Massengill taught us the proper way to greet theatrical royalty.
Burkett, so skilled at what he does, so fast with one-liners, keeps several plates spinning all the time. The 75-minute show, a whirl of laughter and sincerity, is one you shouldn't miss.