In the fall of 1996, we welcomed back the visionary director and designer, Julie Taymor, who with composer Elliot Goldenthal, has created a string of memorable music-theater works, including The Transposed Heads (seen at the Newhouse in 1986) and The Green Bird (seen last spring at the New Victory). Perhaps their most acclaimed work is JUAN DARIÉN: A CARNIVAL MASS, which was seen by only a small number of people during its brief off-off-Broadway debut in 1988. Many of us lucky enough to have seen this richly imaginative piece remember it among our top theatergoing experiences. Thus, we were happy to re-create it for the Beaumont, where a large audience could finally enjoy it. Based on a modern fable by the Uraguayan writer Horacio Quirogà, JUAN DARIÉN is told primarily through its dazzling imagery set to strikingly original music. This 80-minute production offers the stage equivalent of the "magic realism" found in the novels of Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Isabel Allende—employing a seamless and breathtaking blend of masked actors, singers, puppets of all kinds and sizes, and a score that has roots in both Latin American folk music and the Latin Mass (hence the subtitle). JUAN DARIÉN is a compassion play set in the South American jungle, centering on an orphaned tiger cub who is miraculously transformed into a human child after he is taken in by a woman who has just lost her own baby. In a world in which the jaunty skeletal figure of Death is always near, everything leads inexorably to an eerie, climactic danse macabre.