The New Puppeteer

Some people are contortionists. Hugo and Ines -- who make their fists, fingers, feet, and legs into saxophone players, magicians, ballerinas, and sad old men -- could be considered body-part puppeteers. Their poignant and funny Short Stories, which they'll perform this weekend courtesy of Miami-Dade Community College's Cultura del Lobo Performance Series, combines elements of mime, puppet theater, and dance, accompanied by Beatles songs and other mood-inducing music.Peruvian Hugo Suarez, a mime, and Bosnian Ines Pasic, a pianist, met in Italy. Seduced by Hugo and his craft, Ines began studying mime as well and they formed the Teatro Hugo & Ines in 1986. Now living in Peru with their two children, they tour internationally, enjoying gigs at the Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater and the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

To a mime-phobe's relief, Hugo and Ines take their craft to a level beyond the creepy slo-mo pantomimes and sheepish shrugs of your average white-faced street performer. It's hand puppetry sans the puppets, appealing to everyone's fascination with manipulating our bodies. (Unlike the current New York hit Puppetry of the Penis, Short Stories is for kids too.) Often centering on a lonely figure, their narratives possess a literary quality that speaks with quiet action.

In a series of vignettes, the black-clad puppeteers appear onstage individually or in tandem. A few deft movements later, they're upstaged by a cartoonish figure in pajamas, fashioned from their intertwined hands and feet. Or by a frowsy diva in an evening gown and sunglasses. Or by a lithe dancer formed -- incredibly -- from Ines's clasped hands. Discarding dialogue and sets, they also use few props. So subtle is their art, though, that they can make audiences emotional about the dire straits of Hugo's knee, disguised as a musician busking for money on a city sidewalk.