Stuffed and Unstrung are puppets with “potty mouths.”

Stuffed and Unstrung Cast, photo by: Carol Rosegg

Stuffed and Unstrung: Puppets and comedy. Created by Brian Henson and Patrick Bristow. Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St, San Francisco. 888-746-1799 or Through August 27, 2011.

Stuffed and Unstrung are puppets with “potty mouths.”

Back in Hamilton College, many, many years ago, the sainted English Professor Rudd nick-named “BoBo”, threatened that any essay beginning “According to Webster’s dictionary”, would automatically receive a grade of D. However, for this review a definition seems appropriate since the idiom plays a prominent role in this and other shows featuring puppet(s). Avenue Q is the first show to come to mind but even before that, in Fuddy Meers the author suggests that risqué, ribald remarks are tolerated coming from anthropomorphic puppets.

According to, “a 'potty mouth' is someone who uses profanity, or 'nasty' language. The 'potty' is slang for a toilet, so essentially you are calling someone 'toilet mouth', for their nasty language.” There is a lot of that in Stuffed and Unstrung and with the wild audience response my seat mate was in the minority firmly stating his aversion to audience participation.

Audience participation is the key word so be advised not sit in an aisle seat unless you wish to be cajoled into taking the stage with six superb puppeteers and have your image projected on two large TV screens with a plethora of ingenious, sometimes cuddly and always naughty puppets.

The 50 or so puppets are a spin-off from Jim Henson’s Muppet Show that held sway for years on primetime TV and morphed into hit movies. This show was created by Jim Henson’s son Brian and Patrick Bristow who has a much deserved favorable reputation in the art of improv. The company has been dubbed the adult-entertainment wing of Henson Alternative that began as Puppet Up!-Uncensored before playing off-Broadway and now is on the road. The pair has wisely inserted two of the Muppet skits that many of you will recognize and are by far the “best of show.”

Along with the mostly hilarious skits, there is the added benefit of seeing the art and technology of puppetry. The puppeteers leave their high director-style chairs on stage left, select characters from the bank of puppets on stage right. They then display them above their heads, check their movements on stage level monitors as the central TV camera records their actions on two large screens that flank the stage. In one skit we witness a Rube Goldberg looking contraption flawlessly integrate computer generated images and sound with those of the puppeteers.

If the people selected from the audience are not shills, you will have the opportunity to see a new improvised show every night! The puppets are wonderful and it's amazing to be able to see “underneath” work of the performers. Patrick Bristow has a quick wit and genial demeanor keeping the action running smoothly cutting the skits appropriately short. Running time one hour and 50 minutes with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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