by Clinton Campbell

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday January 11, 2018

A scene from "Ada/Ava."
A scene from "Ada/Ava."  

A constant source of astonishment is just how dismissive American audiences are of puppetry - unless it's in "The Lion King."

Puppetry, like poetry, allows for the abstraction of the feelings and experiences it represents, and in doing so gets closer to expressing the many layers of human emotion than many human performances. Anyone who doubts this need only see Manual Cinema's lyric "Ada/Ava," currently playing at ArtsEmerson.

Through shadow puppetry, mime, and live music, this ensemble of performers creates a beautiful and haunting visual symphony about love and loss.

The story centers on twin sisters, Ada and Ava, who are caretakers of an isolated lighthouse. One day, Ava suddenly dies and Ada is forced to face her grief alone, accompanied only by the memories of her beloved sister.

At 60 minutes, the work is relatively short, but the level of originality, craftsmanship and visual artistry on display are breathtaking. The result is a live "film" that feels like a Victorian ghost story written by Hitchcock, directed by Bergman and created while you watch.

Both cinephiles and theater buffs alike will find much to admire about this entirely unique and mesmerizing experience.

"Ada/Ava" continues through January 14 at the Emerson Paramount Center, Robert J. Orchard Stage, 559 Washington Street, Boston, Mass. For more information, visit the ArtsEmerson website.