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Illusion as a Mirror


By Cheryl R. Devall

College An original mime show. Directed by Kevin Grumbach and Elizabeth Pennell. Last weekend at the Loeb Ex.

MIME IS AN art that can speak powerfully without making a sound. It takes drama a step further believably portraying not only emotions, but solid objects, where none really exist. Mime demands more attention and participation from the audience than straight drama, because each movement is significant to an understanding of the message. With silence as a tool to attract the observer, the mimist uses precise body movements and facial expressions to draw the observer into a realm in which illusion is reality, and reality is displayed all the more clearly. This past weekend at the Loeb Ex, a talented ensemble of mimes exploited the power of the medium in Collage. In a series of original sketches, the actors, led by Kevin Grumbach '78 and Elizabeth Pennell '79, confronted the audience with strong statements about society and the human condition.

The program began humorously but nebulously with "The Jungle", in which "animals" cavorted around the stage. The skillful mimicry of various animal traits is only a trap to draw the audience into the spirit of the presentation. Once the audience relaxed, the sketch took an unexpected twist--the entire "jungle" discovered that it was confined by "bars" (less than a foot from the front row of seats), and the act concluded with a group of chimpanzees glaring accusingly at their observers.

Ironies such as this occurred throughout the show. Its creators, realizing that the average American's conception of mime includes whiteface makeup, clowning, and exaggeration, began many of the sketches in a comic spirit, which later gave way to a more serious message. Once the audience was conditioned to the shock value the medium is capable of, the actors presented a wide variety of emotions and ideas in later sketches.

The tale of Sisyphus, the Laborer, demonstrated the futility of monotonous work. Sisyphus, who is commanded by an unknown power to roll a stone up a hill, only to have it roll down over him again and again, was juxtraposed with modern assembly line workers, whose work became almost robot-like and equally crushing under the will of an equally demanding and omnipotent force.

Fantasy was used to achieve poignancy in "The Statue". A statue in a park, longing to become part of the life around her, came to life, only to realize sadly that everyone in the tableau had turned to stone. She then watched from her pedestal as a human being was rejected just as coldly by his re-animated fellows. The tragedy ended in an optimistic climax, when the forlorn man and the lonely statue turned to each other.

The ability to turn abstract ideas into moving statements was demonstrated in a carefully planned and executed production. The elements of lighting, movement, facial expression, and occasionally, sound effects, were skillfully integrated to produce the proper mood.

The mime itself appeared to be the most unstructured element in the show, but it actually was a very controlled and painstaking exercise. Under the guidance of Grumbach, Pennell, and training consultant Johnny Seitz, the cast performed almost flawlessly. The members possessed varying degrees of experience in the art, but they succeeded in creating the necessary images to make the sketches believable.

The ultimate test of the cast's ability and the audience's acceptance came in "Pavane", a sketch whose ideas and execution were totally abstract. Accompanied by a Faure theme, the actors represented the idea of birdlike flight using gently floating hands, joined arms and bodies, and bodies moving separately in graceful dance. The placid beauty of the scene was disrupted by the entrance of humanity as a hunter. She killed the birds, and then realized, too late, what she had destroyed. But much to the hunter's astonishment, the fliers are resurrected in spirit. the show ends, as the sketch does, with the hope that the humans have been enlightened by something unusual, exciting, and beautiful.

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