by Alix Cohen


Since 1972, the theatrical troop Mummenschanz has toured the world enchanting audiences without language or even sound. A combination of mime, dance, and theater utilizing masks, abstract shapes and unexpected scale, the company offers fodder for imagination.

Giant white hands (think Mickey Mouse gloves) with black human legs salute, embrace, twiddle thumbs, count the audience…A green tube open at both ends- worm/caterpillar? inches across the stage and rears up to eat a leaf (chewing is grand)…metallic cloth and shapes evoking undersea creatures whip, soar, twirl and dart in the blackness (reminiscent of Basil Twist’s current ‘Symphony Fantastique’)… A seriously giant sea anemone flutters in like a ballet dancer…A sponge-like creature curls into a seahorse, then a swan, then an undulating flower…shapes become ‘live’ by adding eyes, acquiring exaggerated mouths (anything we see as alive or can anthropomorphize works best.)


A being with a cymbal head and one whose proboscis is a triangle duet, shapes that never achieve faces despite push/pull nonetheless elict collective “awwww” when trying for romance. Familiarly back are giant hands; tall, colorful accordion tubes playing catch with a huge red ball that bounces out into the audience; an enormous inflated cube almost rolling off the stage “oooo,” the audience intones), a woman on whose square head, a face can be etched by audience volunteers; two characters with clay faces that become competitively aggressive changing first their physiognomy and then each other’s…

I saw the company last at their Skirball appearance several years ago and observed little change from earlier presentations. Though this show is billed as “new” practically nothing IS, but for 5 second spots like visual haiku. (A longer skit utilizing ersatz laptops is weak.) I found this extremely disappointing both because images without activity/character lack sustained interest and because such fertile imagination should have evolved.  

If, however, you’re new to Mummenschanz or have children who would be, its human puppetry can still captivate.

Photos Courtesy of the company

Mummenschanz-The Musicians of Silence: you & me

Artistic Director Floriana Frassetto

Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College

524 West 59th Street

Through July 22, 2018