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Mummenschanz

The famed Swiss mime-theater troupe continues to delight audiences of all ages.

By New York City
A scene from Mummenschanz
(© Pia Zanetti)
A scene from Mummenschanz
(© Pia Zanetti)
For most of the 70 intermisssionless minutes that you're watching Mummenschanz, now at NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts as part of a national tour, there will be an invisible little cartoon bubble over your head with the words, "How'd they do that?" inside. And it won't matter if you're 7 or 70.

It may not matter which age you are either to be delighted by the famed Swiss mime-theater group's particular brand of entertainment, although the younger set may be more consistently amused. Certainly, this is one of the most family-friendly shows in town, especially since most of the group's wordless and musicless sketches last seconds rather than minutes. And there's nothing to upset the little ones -- even the most "violent" sketches are ultimately playful in nature.

For this engagement, founders and artistic direcotrs Bernie Schurch and Floriana Frassetto -- joined by Rafaella Mattioli and Pietro Montandon and aided by technical director and lighting designer Jan Maria Lukas -- do what they do best; contort themselves inside clever costumes, creating magical shapes and creatures, and conveying a continuous sense of wonder and surprise. (WIll that heart-shaped boulder really fall into the audience?) Even when you're sure what you're looking at, a few seconds later, you might be looking at something else!

The show's second half -- which begins with a little bit of audience participation (take note if you're in the first few rows) -- concentrates on the troupe's use of masks, many of which are augmented by such ordinary objects as wire and toilet paper rolls. It culimates in a duel of sorts, in which two of the performers manipulate clay in a myriad of ways, creating remarkable animal shapes and other sorts of faces -- just one of the many delicious moments in this show.


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