by Mark Lingenfelter
Sometimes, when you go to the theater, the experience rises above any preconceived expectations. Sometimes, it falls below. And, as in the case of Broken Box Mime Theater’s latest show, ABOVE BELOW, which opened October 5 at HERE Arts Center, there’s a mixture of each.
Part of Broken Box Mime Theater’s mission, according to the company’s website, is to “contemporize the art of mime,” and that is where the evening may leave you wanting more. This is still pretty much your typical “grandfather’s mime” show, save for no one getting trapped inside a box. It’s just that the context of some of the stories offers a more modern perspective, as does the live mixing of the show’s score by DJ Christopher Ross, though it doesn’t necessarily break sound design boundaries.
ABOVE BELOW focuses on the themes of the title: sometimes literally (scenes take place in space, upstairs, heaven, hell, underwater) and sometimes metaphorically (putting on a smile in public, taking it off in private, gender identity). The evening consists of 11 scenes, ranging from the humorous to sci-fi, culminating in a running time of 80 minutes, which—even without intermission—feels a bit too long. It is the comedic pieces in the evening that are the most successful.
“Do You Have It In My Size?” sends a shop clerk to the stockroom in a madcap adventure for a pair of shoes: a journey in which she climbs stair after stair before encountering zombies, ninjas and a video-game style obstacle course, all in the name of customer satisfaction. The ensemble’s creativity and originality (individual performers are not credited for each piece) shines best in this sequence, especially in her return journey.
Other standout pieces include a mimed-action claw machine arcade game and a food delivery man delivering to heaven, and then to hell—I’ll let you watch the piece to see which location gives him the bigger tip. A piece titled “Ceilings” makes the bold choice to use mime to deal with the issue of gender identity while a sci-fi sequence, “Starship Excelsior: The Reboot” delivers a plot that is lost in space.
What lies below this show are talented actors who excel in movement and offer original and creative story ideas. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always surface above and the audience is left with an evening that occasionally lacks clarity. ABOVE BELOW falls in the midline.
HERE Arts Center
145 6th Avenue, NYC
Through October 25