Review By Tania Fisher
Have you ever wondered if your dog senses you’re tense or annoyed? Or have you ever questioned the logic of a chicken? Or the artistic tastes of a pigeon? Well, Link Link Circus by Isabella Rossellini now playing at The Frederick Loewe Theatre attempts to answer those questions for you.
This is an original performance piece that might best be described as a really fun and creative lecture, given by the daughter of celebrated actress, Ingrid Bergman and respected Director, Roberto Rossellini.
After a privileged life enjoying modeling and acting, Isabella Rossellini has returned to what she describes as her “true calling” – her love of animals – by completing a master’s degree in Animal Behavior and Conservation at Hunter College. Ms Rossellini has also received a PhD Honoris Causa from the Science Faculty at University of Quebec at Montreal.
The stage is set with an impressionable hint of a circus ring, surrounded with Rossellini’s favorite toys from her youth. Pan, Rossellini’s own little dog, assists in the show by playing many roles with impressive costume changes and tricks, while Rossellini presents the idea of whether animals really do think and feel, and can smell your emotions.
What raises the event from mere lecture to performance piece, is the implementation of a mélange of Rossellini’s self-made short comic films, as well as home movies and photographs, and animation by Andy Smetanka and Courtney Pure. Rossellini presents herself as the ring leader as she speaks to her audience, sometimes reading from behind a lectern, and at other times moving about the stage speaking casually about the link between humans and animals while incorporating props. At times she transforms herself into Aristotle, expanding on his theory that animals have souls, then Descartes, B.F. Skinner, and of course Charles Darwin, and exploring peoples’ reactions at the time to his Theory of Evolution; that we are all linked to animals.
Ms Rossellini references many theories from varied sources and results from several fascinating scientific experiments, including Pavlov’s “Classical Conditioning” experiment involving feeding hungry dogs while simultaneously ringing a bell. Rossellini expands and explores the ideas of “Modified Behavior,” “Operative Conditioning,” and an animal’s “freewill.”
Andy Byers (Puppeteer, Set Design, Costume Design, Composer), assists both Ms Rossellini and her co-star, little dog, Pan, who often steals the show. Byers has worked with Rossellini for over 10 years, including collaborating on her series of short films entitled Green Porno, some of which are used in this show.
There are moments when Ms Rossellini clearly needed to rely very heavily on her notes, and at times she seemed to stumble on her memorized monologue pieces, both in narrative and delivery. She sometimes only presented the ideas of other theologians without really offering concrete answers, so often we were simply left with questionable ideas that were not resolved. This is not exactly a negative, but does result in the stronger feeling of attending a lecture, and of merely receiving information and theories to ponder for ourselves.
There are comedic moments that organically arise from discussing such in-depth topics as “Cryptic Female Choices” where the example is given with the species of the duck, whereupon the female duck has the ability to choose which sperm she will accept from her many lovers.
Another highlight of the evening was the revelation that a newly discovered beetle species, Ptomaphaginus Isabellarossellinae, possessing remarkably long genitalia, has been named after the star.
Although this is not exactly a compelling night at the theater, the results are an entertaining and incredibly informative performance piece about the link between animal behavior and human behavior, that animal lovers across the board will no doubt enjoy.
Photo: Brigitte Lacomb
“Link Link Circus” By Isabella Rossellini at Hunter College The Frederick Loewe Theatre 930 Lexington Avenue New York, NY Run time: approx.80 minutes, no intermission thru May 3, https://ci.ovationtix.com/34951/production/1007831