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From 9 critic and 4 member reviews
Members say: Original, Delightful, Absorbing, Ambitious, Enchanting

About the show

Contemporary shadow puppetry performance collective Manual Cinema present 'Ada|Ava,' about septuagenarian Ada who, bereaved of her twin Ava, solitarily marks time in the patterns of a life built for two. More…

Twin sisters Ada and Ava have grown old together playing chess, having tea, and using the rock-paper-scissors method to decide which of them will tend the beam at the top of the lighthouse tower adjoining their home. Ava's death sends Ada into a tailspin. However, a traveling carnival and a trip to a mirror maze plunges her into a journey across the thresholds of life and death. Set in a landscape of the New England gothic, 'Ada|Ava' uses a story of the fantastic and supernatural to explore mourning and melancholy, self and other.

Theatre is Easy

"'Ada/Ava' fills a liminal space between the highly technical and the highly emotional, between a well-oiled masterpiece and a casual theatrical experiment, between cinema and theatre. The sheer volume of detail that each performer, musician, and designer has poured into this production inspires nothing less than pure wonderment." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"It is a masterful production whose imaginative intricacies transcend its two-dimensional resources...What makes 'Ada|Ava' particularly spectacular are the complex visuals Manual Cinema use to tell the story. Their thoughtful cinematography gives the piece a heavy cinematic element through its striking imagery and carefully constructed montages, allowing the piece’s more surreal elements to be captured in a way that traditional theatrical techniques cannot...A compelling and awe-inspiring pro... Full Review

The New York Times

"This Chicago troupe is conjuring phantasms to die for in an unclassifiable story of spectral beauty. And its creators allow their audience to see exactly how they’re doing what they’re doing, which is nothing less than turning substance into shadow and shadow into substance. Such self-exposure, instead of diluting the strength of the illusory, only enhances its hold on our hearts and minds...Yet this singular show retains an air of do-it-yourself humility that makes its soaring enchantment a... Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"'Ada/ Ava' deconstructs the components of a film...Although evocative of silent film, the play is really more of a pensive, emotion-filled reverie. 'Ada/ Ava' gives space for the audience to fill in their thoughts with kind and generous words...Director Drew Dir does a fine job blending elements of performance. He leaves plenty of space for the audience to appreciate their breath, as they follow the characters on this somber journey. The overall theatrical experience is captivating." Full Review

Time Out New York

"The virtuosic group makes elegant live-scored 'silent films' that evoke sweetness, poignancy and fright. Manual Cinema's artists make tangible the care they take...It's been a long time since we've experienced craft, image and emotion blended together like this." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"It has no dialogue, its methods have a deceptively primitive (in the best sense) quality, and its story is rather simple, but 'Ada/Ava' offers one of the most hypnotically engrossing hours in the theatre you’re likely to exceptional piece of devised theatre definitely worth a visit." Full Review


"A heartfelt play with strong avant-garde elements...At its core, this is a character-driven play that demands much from its actors. Costumes, puppets, and props do a lot to enhance the atmosphere and make the audience feel closer to both the living Ada and the departed Ava. Although sans words, the play employs a team of musicians to help set the emotional tone of each scene." Full Review

Stage and Cinema

"Visually striking and radiating love and sincerity, Manual Cinema’s shadow-puppet show 'Ada/Ava', which attempts to explore septuagenarian Ada’s inner turmoil after the death of her twin sister Ava, leaves one emotionally unsatisfied; for all of the production’s lovely elements the story is dull, the show boring...The dramatic failings of 'Ada/Ava' bring out flaws in the production which would have been forgivable otherwise... Still, with all its flaws, 'Ada/Ava' is a curiosity that is wort... Full Review

Chicago Reader

for a previous production "Every once in a while you see something that makes you go, 'Hunh. That's new.' It'll have lots of elements you recognize, but also some that seem entirely strange, and the whole thing will unwind in a way that catches not only your attention but your breath. That's how I felt on seeing 'Ada/Ava' last summer." Full Review

Ambitious, Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Gripping

See it if you want to experience a beautiful and rare art form that is the shadow puppet that's done in a mind-blowing, "how did they do that" way.

Don't see it if you're not open to experiencing atypical theater.

Ambitious, Delightful, Spellbinding, Exquisite, Original

See it if you like ultra-creative mixed-media, absorbing stories and a witty dash of Hitchkock

Don't see it if you need a highly literal storyline and think puppets are silly or pretentious

Absorbing, Inventive, Visual, Original

See it if You might enjoy a shadow puppet performance, are willing to try something new, appreciate highly creative work.

Don't see it if You want traditional actors and script, seek a musical entertainment.

Enchanting, Absorbing, Great staging

See it if You not only want to be taken away into a mysterious, enchanting world, but be amazed at what people can do with four projectors and cutouts

Don't see it if You wish to see a typical Broadway show.

Cast & Creatives

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