With spirit and silliness, performer Yael Rasooly brought her show “Paper Cut” to the Ballard Friday night. Rasooly charmed her audience with her quirky character and offbeat humor and captivated with her singing talent.
In her one-woman show, Rasooly played Ruth Spencer, a secretary who was in love her boss, Mr. Richard McCormack. While working alone late one night, Ruth began to act out her fantasized love story with Richard, using cut-paper props to tell the tale as if it were a classic romance film from the 30s or 40s.
In Ruth’s overblown fantasy, the lonely secretary used a paper cut-out of a beautiful cinematic heroine to portray herself and a cut-out of a handsome leading man to portray Richard. She spoke in a high, dramatic voice as paper Ruth and then lowered it when switching to paper Richard’s tone. Ruth’s fantasy story saw her marrying Richard, globe-trotting on their honeymoon and then moving into a big house before she met the evil French maid Georgette.
Throughout the narrative, Rasooly’s funny usage of her cut-outs and other props prompted laughter from the audience. For example, when the happy paper couple went on a carousel (a spinning umbrella of paper horses), Ruth joked that they were “cut out for each other.” When Georgette explained the sad tale of Richard’s former wife’s drowning to paper Ruth, Rasooly aggressively dunked a tea bag into a clear cup of water on her desk, turning the water a brownish blood-red before pulling out the tea bag and tossing it away, claiming that the body was never found.
In one instance, the plot even called for Rasooly to eat one of her paper characters. As she was chewing on Richard, she jokingly assured the audience that this was her “favorite part of the show.” When it was time for Richard to reappear, Rasooly (as Ruth) tried to smooth out the crumpled pulp that was her character’s imaginary husband, unfortunately decapitating him. This was no matter however; she him aside and pulled a brand-new Richard out of her desk.
The show was delightful, but some of the best moments were when Rasooly sang. Rasooly, who actually trained as a classical singer, sang “Paper Moon” and snippets of “La Vie En Rose” as well as other songs at different points during “Paper Cut” to portray characters’ emotions or to set the scene.
Additionally, the production had a few other nods to classic cinema. The soundtrack to “Paper Cut” featured the theme from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” to depict secretary Ruth’s fear at leaving an assignment unfinished, for example. The performance even began with the sound of the MGM lion’s roar and Rasooly humorously holding a paper frame to her face and pretending to roar like that lion.
Rasooly is multi-talented, as her performance showed: She spoke and sang in different languages when the paper lovers were honeymooning around the world, and she even translated and learned all of “Paper Cut” in French so that she could perform it at a puppet festival in France.
The audience enjoyed Rasooly’s show, laughing with the performer as she portrayed Ruth’s fantastical love story and really listening in when Rasooly sang.
“I thought it was brilliant,” Emily Werner, a third-year graduate student in arts administration, said. “Yael was very quirky, very creative, and I even liked some of the winks to those classic films that I mentioned earlier like ‘Psycho,’ ‘Some Like It Hot’ and the Katharine Hepburn productions.”
In a question and answer session after the performance, Rasooly gave her audience some insight into the creation of “Paper Cut.” According to Rasooly, the show came from limitations; she wanted to tell a cinematic tale in the medium of cut paper. Rasooly also explained that she came to puppetry as a way to combine different forms of art like singing, acting and theater design.
“This is my language to tell stories… and to also reclaim art for me,” Rasooly said.
Rasooly is here as part of the Israel Institute’s Visiting Artists Program.
Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.