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Flash Review 1, 10-1: Remove Head Before Jumping in Armchair
Non Sequiturs for the Artistically Obstructed from Thierree

By Angela Jones
Copyright 2002 Angela Jones

NEW YORK -- Very occasionally, we get the privilege of seeing theater that acts as conceptual springboard for our own imaginations to take flight. James Thierree's "Junebug Symphony," playing at the New Victory Theater through October 13 and seen this past weekend, is the certain mix of entertainment, concepts, circus, movement, set design, and musicality that I hope will be the beginning of an evolution in theatre. Whether you are 4 and a half years old or 50 and three quarters, this show is insistent on surprising and delighting you with its truly original ideas and multi-talented cast.

Whether a young man skates through mist while playing a complex violin solo or simply takes off his head and places on the ground beside his bed, or suddenly runs and in a state of panic jumps head first into an armchair, you find yourself smack in the middle of a surreal world where the skittering subconscious is king and the linear mind has been so stunned it forgot to say "shotgun." It's a place where paintings sing arias, slithering creatures emerge from the closet to assume the forms of the furniture, and mirrors have a mind of their own. The fact that no real through-line exists doesn't seem to matter a bit. Every part morphs into something else seamlessly, and in general the flow completely has its own kind of illogical sense to it. From moment to moment we might slip from dark aggression to carefree silliness, and we ride along with abandon.

Only toward the end of "Junebug Symphony" do the prolific ideas of the director seem to get in the way of that narrative sense, in a sudden onslaught of totally unconnected pieces that simply make an appearance for 30 seconds and leave without reason. If some bits could have been cut out and others developed to flow into each other, the second half would have avoided what seems like a ploy to simply show us more and more cool tricks. The first aerial act, in which Raphaelle Boitel's contortionist/junebug and Thierree's central character share a moment of tenderness while flying through the air on a chandelier, is breathtaking, but the second high-flying trapeze act simply becomes a circus-y act most New Yorkers have seen many times before. However, these very few "look Ma" moments did not take away from most of the piece, where physical skill was taken to new artistic heights.

Honestly, my own real disappointment in the show came when I realized it was a French troupe. I was desperately hoping that Americans had begun to take these kind of risks and move beyond our firmly entrenched boundaries and the ridiculously obsessive concern with definitions: dance vs. theatre and entertainment vs. art. However, I do hope that such productions can and will inspire more people to really see what is really possible.


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