Mum and Shah
by Colby Devitt and Marc Zegans
directed by Colby Devitt
at the Lyric Stage
playing through Sunday July 23
The reincarnation of two great lovers in a pair of palace monkeys is an unusual plot idea in itself.
Of course, when a pelican who has been changed into a man and kung fu diva who wields a broom are just two of the zany people who help them figure out who they are, things are bound to get a little strange and a lot complicated.
Mum and Shah, a physical theater production conceived and directed by Colby Devitt, keeps its audience engaged by continuously shifting the center of attention between the oddball set of characters caught up in the unusual plot.
However, the complexity of the production means that no character holds the audience's attention for very long. Luckily, as the interest in one character begins to fade, another actor catches the audience's eye and holds on to the production's momentum, creating an ebb and flow that oddly enhances the production's own internal rhythm.
Rhythm is the dominating factor of Mum and Shah; the characters speak in poetry and move in dance. Even the music and the lighting help sustain the cadence. The audience is lulled into the performance's magic and dreamlike aura.
The success of Mum and Shah is the production's surprising cohesiveness, a credit to Devitt. The play draws together monkeys, a cardboard couple and a seductress with electric whips (among other characters) based on poems from the book Catch! by Mark Zegans, a doctoral candidate at the Kennedy school of Government.
Each character shines at some point in the performance. The chorus of monkeys played by members of the Jamnastics Performance Team give the performance a kick start: their energy and excitement comes through in both their lines and their movement.
Thimblerigger, played by Julie A. Terrell, is the next character to electrify the stage. As the reincarnation of Mum's lust and anger, she is so dynamic one expect a shower of sparks every time her whip lashes out or she stops just short of trampling a monkey. Her boldness and sharpness are terrific.
The title characters captivate the audience when Shah, played by Robert Larkin, romantically approaches Mum, played by Danielle L. DiDio. Larkin's use of poetry to win his love's affection is a demonstration of the power words can have when used well . DiDio's reluctance and then grace in joining Shah is lovely to watch, and her face glows with affection.