Catamounts jarring production will challenge ideas about how a play should look

Shockheaded Peter ain’t your average drama.

Directed by Amanda Berg Wilson and put on by The Catamounts, this production delivers theatre like you’ve never seen it before. Experimental and immersive, this collage of dark stories pulls out all the stops while throwing conventional storytelling out the window.

You’ve got live music and puppets, cardboard monsters and death. If you’re looking for an experience, somewhat akin to a haunted house, step right up.

A twist on the parables of Der Struwwelpeter

Take a seat, anywhere you like, they say as you walk in. Just don’t bring bags or jackets — there’s a lot of movement in this play and not a lot of room. You may wonder where the stage begins and ends. Here’s a tip: If you’re in the room, you’re part of it.

In a black box theatre transformed into a dusty attic, we become the play’s kinder —children — expected to watch and learn, and occasionally get out of the way.

Inspired by Heinrich Hoffman’s children’s book, Der Struwwelpeter and with a tone to match the Brothers Grimm, Shockheaded Peter shares stories of children who suffer dire consequences for their naughty behavior. In 75 non-stop minutes, we learn what becomes of children who suck their thumbs (portrayed by Eloise Wilson), play with matches (Lily Gruber), or fidget too much (Luca Fowler). It isn’t pretty, but it is set to song and dance.

Threaded throughout this gruesome, musical montage is the winding, seemingly pathless story of a couple and their abnormal child. Through their inexperienced parenthood, we’re reminded that, even as adults, we too have much to learn.

Make sense?

It probably doesn’t, but that may be the very point of this bizarre show.

Adept use of limited space

While Shockheaded Peter hinges on unconventional storytelling, Wilson and production Ddsigner Matthew Schlief bring it all together with an interactive set dexterously navigated by a 15-person cast.

This is no small feat.

Actors emerge from every corner of the room, stepping carefully past the audience seated along the edges. Wooden planking, similar to that of a dock, allows the actors a level of elevation when they want it — otherwise, they’re on the floor with us.

Dancing around a dimly lit, cramped room can’t be easy, but the actors move among audience members and each other easily — a testament to hours of rehearsal. The ensemble (Joan Bruemmer-Holden, James Blunt, Kellie Fox, Maggie Tisdale, and Ronan Viard) stands out especially for their use of space and teamwork in locating and relocating props and pieces of the set.

Depending on where you’re sitting, you may not always have a full view of what’s going on, a reality that isn’t for every theatergoer. But given the strange nature of the show, seeing isn’t always paramount. Plus, you may even get the chance to move seats throughout the evening to experience a new perspective.

Mundane objects transformed into intricate props

In most productions I’m familiar with, the props are carefully crafted from expert materials. In