“Everything is significant. Nothing is significant.” That’s the thesis of Cincinnati-based Autumn Kaleidoscope’s Unintentional Significance: A Puppet Show About Everything and Nothing. The phrase, delivered by a blue light bulb sitting atop a skull, bookends the experimental show.
Indeed, it lives up to its name. Helmed by puppeteer Sean P. Mette, each seemingly disparate scene blends into the next in the name of absurdism. In the age of social media, feeds that deliver content at a rapid-fire pace, Unintentional Significance keeps interest by showing a variety of concepts without the clutter one might feel after spending too much time on TikTok. If ever a scene held more weight, more lighthearted or soothing content followed. In this sense, Mette deftly sequenced his play that navigates the application of meaning — or the lack thereof.
The majority of his puppets are made of makeshift items: a tennis ball, a mop, odds and ends found on a desk, socks and garbage bags. Despite their sometimes-simplistic appearance, Mette has given them unique expressions and design. In one scene, for example, a dragon made from an old, tattered umbrella swoops through Eden Park on a rainy day as vibey music plays in the background. Similarly, a sea creature constructed from milk cartons silently takes a swim in a murky lake. These creations call back to childhood play, exploring emotions with fleeting wonder without the inhibition of adult self-consciousness. Mette’s voice acting reflects this point as well.
Some scenes are spooky, but never scary. A fluffy skull-faced bunny waxes poetic about how the other bunnies make fun of him because, well, he looks different. But just when you think it’s because of his Donnie Darko-esque appearances, you’re hit with a different answer: His downward-facing ears. There’s some timely and comedic fodder sprinkled in, too: a sing-songy slice-of-life skit about a cicada; a monkey searching for its pals in a cemetery; an orangutan playing chess that feels like a homage to Netflix A Queen’s Gambit, though that might just be my fondness speaking. Mette keeps things loose enough that any given viewer could walk away with a completely different set of ideas.
I watched this show via video-on-demand on my laptop in the comfort of my own living room with the lights dimmed. At times, I genuinely laughed aloud. Some scenes pack more punch while others dragged on. But all in all, Unintentional Significance was a whimsical, enchanting ride worth the watch. And, hey, maybe you can even extract some of your own truth from it.
The Cincinnati Fringe Festival takes place June 4-19. For more information, show descriptions, a schedule and tickets, visit cincyfringe.com.