Clever mime and agile performances charmed an audience of children used to being entertained by technical gadgetry.


By Joel Benjamin


tütüswan1Mummenschanz, the twee mime troupe that amused and charmed New York nearly forty years ago returned for a mini-season at NYU’s Skirball Center. The four performers, including co-founder Floriana Frassetto, performed well over twenty silent skits, turning themselves into anthropomorphic tubes, jigsaw puzzles that kept rearranging themselves into huge pussycats, be-masked caricatures with moldable features and fantastical, many-armed creatures.

The Thanksgiving week matinee was full of children who gave full voice to their pleasure, squealing at the sudden metamorphosis of a sheet of paper into a face and the sight of two person-sized blue hands opening the curtain at the very beginning of the show. They delighted when large balloons were tossed into the audience and thrown back onto the stage and with some silly back and forth between a Mummenschanzer running up and down the front row of seats rubbing the head of the lone bald daddy, much to his embarrassment (although those in the balcony had to feel a bit resentful at missing out on the bonus bits the “expensive seats” were getting).

In the most popular skit, two characters in face-effacing headgear decorated with multiple rolls of toilet paper kept pulling off reams of it, using it to decorate themselves in a mildly funny competition. There’s nothing like the suggestion of “toity” humor to keep kids giggling. In another skit, the mime decorated her simple black unitard with strategically placed strips of colorful sticky tape, turning her costume into a suit with pockets and even a flower in its lapel.

The gentle pacing—civilized and genteel—occasionally became sluggish, causing some unrest in the youngsters used to the frenetic rhythms of videogames and Nickolodeon sitcoms. It is certainly refreshing, though, to see children enjoy themselves at an activity that doesn’t involve a screen and buttons.

The other three members of the troupe were Philipp Egli, Raffaella Mattioli and Pietro Montandon, all working with extraordinary skill and agility in the program which combined classic mime, European modern dance and a touch of Alwin Nikolais’s art.


Mummenschanz, the Musicians of Silence – November 20-30, 2014

NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

566 LaGuardia Place, at Washington Square

New York, NY

Tickets: 866-611-8183 or www.nyuskirball.org

More Information: www.mummenschanz.com

Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission