LEWISTON — There is a lot more to origami, the Japanese folk art of paper folding, than meets the eye — something The Public Theatre explores in its presentation of “Animals Out of Paper.”

The play is “fascinating and fun,” said director Janet Mitchko, describing the production as a “humorous, emotionally powerful and uplifting examination of love, loss and the healing power of art.”

It will open on Friday, Jan. 28, and run through Feb. 6.

The three-character cast is made up of professional New York actors who will make their first appearances on the TPT stage.

Caroline Strong portrays origami artist Ilana. Her husband has left, her three-legged dog has run off and she is struggling with “folder’s block.”

Ilana opens her studio to Suresh, a brilliant but troubled origami genius (played by Vandit Bhatt) and Andy (played by Christopher Gerson) who is the young man’s math teacher.

Many people outside Japan have seen little of origami art beyond the very basic level in which elementary schoolchildren may create a little frog or bird. Mitchko said “Animals Out of Paper” emphasizes the deeper elements of the art form, as well as its practical applications in important medical and scientific fields.

Ilana’s “folder’s block” relates to her attempt to design the crease pattern in a mesh heart sleeve for the treatment of congestive heart failure. Mitchko said it’s a true medical project actually designed by origamist Robert Lang.

While some origamists take a structured mathematical approach to their work, others get inspiration from other sources. Mitchko said it’s Suresh’s love for hip-hop music that fires his creativity.

“The play shows us how folds are like memories,” Mitchko said. She went on to describe those folds as “scars which also can be a part of the beauty of life.”

All three of the play’s compelling characters are folded together, wondrously reshaping each other to create an unforgettable night of theater,” Mitchko said.

TPT is presenting one of only a few productions of “Animals Out of Paper” since its acclaimed run on Broadway. It was nominated for the Outstanding Off-Broadway Play of 2009. This will be the play’s New England premiere.

“Animals Out of Paper” playwright Rajiv Joseph “is on the verge of exploding on the national theatrical scene,” Mitchko said. His latest play, “Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo,” will open on Broadway in March, with Robin Williams starring.

“Joseph is one of the best up-and-coming playwrights,” she said.

“The great thing about this play is the way it challenges the audience to see and accept the complicated creases in the pattern of our own lives as part of its beauty,” Mitchko said.

The show also features special origami elements created by Maine origamist and math professor Eva Szillery, as well as items from the original New York production.

Some remarkable pieces of origami will be seen during the play, which uses paper folding as a metaphor for life, Mitchko said, and there will be a lobby display of origami art.

Working behind the scenes on “Animals Out of Paper” are set designer Michael Reidy, lighting designer Bart Garvey and costume designer Jonna Klaiber.

“We fell in love with this show when we saw it,” she said, “and we think our audiences will respond to it in the same way they enjoyed the play ‘Proof.'”

Go and do

WHAT: “Animals Out of Paper”

WHO: The Public Theatre

WHERE: 31 Maple St., Lewiston

WHEN: Jan. 28-30 and Feb. 3-6. Shows will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday.

TICKETS: Call 782-3200


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