In a dystopian future, the rising ocean has swallowed Miami and the only human survivors live in a gated community in a small Florida town. Post-apocalyptic conditions have spurred sea creatures to mutate — sprouting feet, walking on land and breathing air — in Mermutants, a multimedia puppet show presented recently at La Nuit Comedy Theater.
Mermutants loosely follows a subversive telling of The Little Mermaid. The characters are unnamed, but the Ariel figure (Ariel Harris-Porada) is one of the only humans left on land and she must fend off mosquitoes while cleaning up the giant mess that was once the Sunshine State. A mermaid wearing a bright pink wig, mask and sequined gown washes up on shore and offers Ariel the chance to trade her feet for a fish tail.
The show uses puppets, animation from shadow projectors and original music. It is billed as a comedy and gets a few laughs from absurd visuals such as bedazzled mermaids and conjoined neon-pink dolphins. Many jokes about water levels and sea witches don't land, but the colorful spectacle and good storytelling make the production work. In an entrancing scene, sea creatures dance at Slimey's nightclub. Dressed in elaborate fish masks, they dance to a club-banging original. The club's bartender is a pink flamingo in a waiter's jacket. The crab-like DJ Krustacean (Kristal Shaver) plays the keyboards and then breaks out a saxophone for an off-key solo that somehow fits the looped house beat. The partygoers sing the chorus, "I'm not trying to waste your time/ I just want to taste your slime."
The surreal show takes a gross turn when Ariel finally decides to mutate. To complete the transformation, a sea witch spits liquid into Ariel's mouth. This ritual happens a few times and ultimately signals the end of Earth.
The show was created in January by a collective of puppeteers and artists in residence at the Kilnhaus art space in Dahlonega, Georgia. Many of them also collaborated on a 2014 show, Deep Space Showcase.
Mermutants' eccentric antics might turn off some people, but it's a fringe festival-type of show and works for some indulgent viewers. The presentation is outlandish, but that fits its critique of overconsumption and the wasting of precious resources.