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Be

This initial American offering by ths Israeli performance troupe Mayumana is extremely musical, wildly theatrical, and great fun.

By New York City
A scene from Be
(© Ran Biran)
A scene from Be
(© Ran Biran)
Be, the first American offering by Israeli-based performance group Mayumana, is not traditional musical theater. It is, however, extremely musical, wildly theatrical, and great fun.

Part exuberantly percussive in the manner of Stomp, part creatively impressive in the manner of Blue Man Group: Tubes, and with just a dash of the whimsical in the manner of Cirque du Soleil thrown in for good measure, this new international import is a thrilling example of that ever-growing school of live entertainment that provides visual and physical spectacle for audiences that don't want to see more traditional theater.

Don't come early, unless you want to listen to the aggressively loud rock music that fills the Union Square Theatre. The music erroneously suggests the show might be an assault on the senses; but when the show actually begins, your senses are given an invigorating deep massage.

Be, which has been conceived, created, and directed by Eylon Nuphar, begins with 10 people in a line and the simple sound of a metronome ticking to its own peculiar beat. We then watch as 10 heads twitch in comic unison to the increasingly crazy syncopation. The extraordinary precision with which all the members of the troupe move is impressive. At times, it is also a little bit frightening; it so borders on mechanical that it begins to feel downright anti-human until the individuality of each of the members is explored in a growing array of eccentric bits throughout the 90-minute show.

The hallmark of Mayumana -- and the meaning of their name in Hebrew -- is "skill," and that is readily apparent in all that they do. To begin, all of the troupe's members are masters of percussion, and the imaginative ways with which they keep the beat alive is awesome to behold. Drums are the least of it. They use anything at hand to create sound, from pots and pans to a tub of water. They pound on their own bodies, the bodies of others, or anything at all to make a glorious noise.

Unlike Stomp, however, percussion is only part of their vast array of tricks and treats. They use dance that is uniquely compelling for the tension they create between their flamboyant abandon and their equally remarkable degree of intense self-control.

The often-playful company even engages members of the audience in their antics when ropes attached to various bells and whistles are lowered in strategic locations and patrons pull on those ropes to create sounds in a controlled cacophony that might or might not become music. It doesn't matter, though, because everything the troupe touches becomes entertainment.

Bet on this show to have a long run. Moreover, don't be surprised if we begin to see more and more editions of Mayumana in the future. We'll be ready.


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