Finally, the 4th annual Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, after a COVID 19-induced delay, has arrived. If the opening of Robin Frohardt’s plastic bag store on Michigan Avenue is any indication, it was well worth the wait. You must brave the weather and strengthen yourself with a mask and an omicron vaccination card and go to the Wrigley Building.
Entering the Plastic Bag Store, you will find yourself in a concept convenience store where exquisite installation art meets environmental activism with dark humor. If you book tickets to see the puppet film that is the beating heart of this project, you will see the compassionate art that brings deep meaning and humanity to all the depressing facts. I cannot recommend this experience highly enough – examining everything from the sushi to be produced, to cakes and cupcakes meticulously fashioned from single-use plastic and uncannily resembling edible items, then following the rich history of anthropological fantasy rooted in the movie and then visiting the hidden museum – is a truly unusual experience that challenges the mind and the emotion. There are twists and moments of quiet joy amid painful realizations. The mesmerizing and likeable bunraku puppets that play in the film serve to showcase our humanity – it’s so disorienting that the objects can so plaintively reveal who we are. The Plastic Bag Store is a social commentary that whispers more questions than it answers while delighting our eyes and our feelings.
The plastic bag shop is in the street-level storefront of the North Tower of the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River. It is open until January 30, Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with screenings of paid immersive films (not to be missed) at 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. On Saturdays, the store opens from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., with film screenings at 11 a.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. On Sundays, the store is open from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with film screenings at 11 a.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Entrance to the store is free; movie tickets are $31 with $21 tickets for students and seniors. For tickets and more information about the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, visit chicagopuppetfest.org.
Third Coast Review is Chicago’s local website specializing in coverage of Chicago area arts and culture. Learn more at thirdcoastreview.com