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Flash Flashback, 9-27: Bowled Over
In Company with Marcel Marceau
By Angela Jones
Copyright 2000 Angela Jones
(The Dance Insider has been revisiting its Flash Archive. This Flash Review was first posted October 25, 2000. Marcel Marceau passed away Saturday in Paris at the age of 84. To read Paul Ben-Itzak's tribute, click here.)
After more than 50 years,
you have to be good. No one could argue that Marcel Marceau is not
the mime virtuoso. He has brought his art to a state of physical
perfection as only a few mature dancers have. In fact, you could
see just how perfected his troupe's abilities are when the performers
broke out and danced the tango. Every moment was stylized, clear
and distinct. Every detail of hand, finger, and eye could be seen
in the picture.
During Marceau's run
at the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse, "The Bowler Hat" is being
presented October 24-29 by Marceau and company, and from October
31 to November 12 a collection of solo pieces that span his long
career will be presented. "The Bowler Hat" is a mime-play based
around a bowler hat that becomes stuck on the head of Jonathan Bowler
(played by Marceau) and all the ridiculous events that occur in
the process of his trying to rid himself of it.
I admit that I have not
seen much mime nor am I familiar with its conventions. I also feel
that I am very guilty of having the short attention span that plagues
most American gen-Xers. The extremely slow pace of the story, and
the lack of any real emotion made me keep wishing for something
more to sink my teeth into. But, Marcel Marceau can give you a piece
of history, and keeping that expectation in mind makes it all the
more interesting. If you enjoy vaudevillian humor and slapstick,
then this show is your cup of tea. Mime has the same over-the-top
drama and schtick-iness of any silent movie. However, it lacks the
quick wit of the Marx Brothers, so none of the jokes come off as
being truly funny.
The story seemed to almost
end five times, and apparently missed its climax. But only in those
"extra innings" did we see the most interesting sequences when there
was no plot to keep plodding through. The dream sequences in Venice,
with the farandoles, and the scene where thousands of bowler hats
fill the sky as Jonathan Bowler gets carried by the wind into their
midst, is simultaneously surreal and humanly poignant. He has rid
himself of everything and is now alone with nothing. He gives his
body up to be surrounded by the thing he felt most unfortunately
attached to, plagued by, and now surrounded by. It is a moment of
real art, finally giving the audience room to place themselves in
his silent world.
I found myself thinking
that I've seen this all done before. That thought made me realize
how entrenched Marceau's allegories and exercises are in our consciousness.
This show is a chance to witness the origin and iconography, the
primal soup, of physical communication.