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Meat Puppets

No strings attached

by and

Puppetry is intrinsically surreal. From the bizarre fluidity of a marionette's dance to the absurdity of a talking sock to the foam-head wonder-world of prank calls on Comedy Central, puppetry has been a mainstay of our culture, albeit one that's left audiences largely unchallenged. Enter "body puppetry," where the audience's expectations are subverted from the very start -- for example, there are no puppets per se. Instead of holding carved creatures, performers cover their bodies with props -- a little lipstick on the bellybutton, a fake nose on a foot -- to create mind-blowing characters.

Hugo Suarez and Ines Pasic (of Teatro Hugo & Ines) are body puppeteers, fusing puppetry, mime and dance to create a new form wholly unlike its components. The pair met in Italy; Suarez was a street mime, Pasic a concert pianist. Since then, they've toured three continents on their own and our own continent with the "On Tour" branch of the Jim Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater. They've even hit the pinnacle of success, American television (of course), appearing on PBS' Between the Lions. Suarez and Pasic's Short Stories is a series of "whimsical vignettes illustrating the poetic moments of everyday life." Like mime, it's completely wordless. Like puppetry, it's completely surreal.

Short Stories will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, January 16 and 17, at the Edison Theatre, 6445 Forsyth Boulevard. Tickets are $14 to $28 (call 314-534-1111). -- Mark Dischinger

Get 'Faced!
With your better half

The Magic House (516 South Kirkwood Road, call 314-822-8900 for hours, $6) is a perennial favorite destination for kids, especially when inclement weather makes playing outside impossible. And with a three-day weekend in honor of Martin Luther King and some frosty weather, this weekend is the perfect time to swing by and play with your kids and the Face Blender (but not on Monday, as the House will be closed). Through the science of optics and some carefully positioned mirrors, the Face Blender allows viewers to see one half of their face melded with the face of someone standing next to them. Sure, it's funny to see yourself as half-Chinese, half-African American, but it also underscores the fact that human beings, despite our superficial differences, have a lot in common (like laughing at silly faces). -- Paul Friswold