Between Dance and Drama
Mime comes to Harvard only about one a year, but it enjoys ever-greater popularity nationally. Although Marcel Marceau may still be the only mime whose name is a household word, his style is no longer the only one visible on the American stage. The Mime, a performing artist on the margins of dramatic theater and abstract dance, can express himself through both forms, creating a wide range of distinct forms.
In the Mime's Eye, directed by Kevin Grumbach '79-4, explores the possibilities of several different styles. Working with a cast of five mimes, Grumbach developed nine pieces which are accompanied by an original score composed by Robert Kyr, a composer-in-residence and junior fellow at North House. The show uses a variety of corporal techniques, from the pantomime of Marceau to a classic, dramatic piece inspired by the festive tradition of the Italian commedia dell' arte.
The music reflects the mimic style and adds another artistic dimension to it. "Love in the Pantry," a piece based on the harlequin character from the commedia dell' arte, tells the story of the harlequin's love for a maid. His courting is spurned at first, but he wins her over and she offers him food and drink. The other servants in the house discover him and throw him out bodily, with the offending maid close behind. The two pick themselves up, held themselves to the supplies of the pantry, and live happily ever after. By associating the characters with instruments, tonal qualities and musical phrases, Kyr expands on the actions and characters of the mimes and sustains the comedy in places where it might otherwise have lagged.
A second style is represented in "Deserts," a duo mime with a surrealist tone. The piece is moribund in mood, somewhat reminiscent of Beckett. It is echoed by the somber song of a cello on stage, and two clarinets serenading one another from the balconies of the hall. In another piece, Kyr also uses an unusual spatial arrangement of sound. "Struggles in Passing," a dance mime about the nature of work, is accompanied both by a tape produced using subway noises and conversations, and by the ensemble of flute, tow clarinets, celesta and piano. The sounds of the instruments filter in from outside of the theater hall, while the tape is projected directly into the hall. The mimes move between a pastoral, smooth kind of work and more isolated, abstract industrial motions, supported by two levels and qualities of sound.
In the Mime's Eye, one of very few student shows that consist entirely of original work, brings to the Harvard stage some excellent mime by Grumbach and his cast, as well as some new work from a recognized young composer. It is an ambitious project and a provocative evening of theater.