THEATER REVIEW

Creative Cirko De Mente evokes . . . well, it's hard to say

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By Celia Wren
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 25, 2010

Don't expect to meet with gasp-inducing acrobatics or jewel-like stage pictures at Cirko De Mente's ". . . Come Back to My Feet," running through tonight as part of the Kennedy Center's Celebrate Mexico 2010 festival. Instead, the Mexico City-based contemporary circus troupe has cooked up a low-key, mime- and theater-infused fever dream -- quirky, amiably mystifying, and, now and then, a little funny.

Inspired by "In the Country of Last Things," Paul Auster's apocalypse-flavored novel of vagabonds and urban decay, ". . . Come Back to My Feet" unfurls on a set that's a pack rat's fantasy. Boxes, bulging garbage bags, stuffed animals, a dirty microwave and other junk lie in heaps in what appears to be a city apartment, or maybe just a dead-end alley. Sheets of newspaper plaster a wooden partition, and clotheslines swoop overhead.

To the accompaniment of moody musical textures and oversized sound effects -- barking dogs, pounding rain, the swooshing of a washing machine -- a handful of quirky characters putter and clamber around the space. A lanky tramp with a dirty face searches for his missing blue shoe. A pair of men with modest juggling skills don, swap and wrestle with a few bowler hats. In a sequence that vaguely evokes a Rube Goldberg machine, a male figure dangles from a rope ladder to deposit a glass ball in a rickety vertical pipe.

Meanwhile, enigmatic women dressed in hobo chic execute dance and aerial moves. Sometimes they totter and gesticulate joltingly at ground level, like dolls brought to life. Sometimes they swing on dangling hoops, or rotate gently but gymnastically from slings that resemble overlong bedsheets suspended from the ceiling.

At the rear of the set is a small screen that relays video and animation vaguely related to the none-too-clear story line: During the bowler hat shtick, for instance, bowler-hatted cartoon people appear on the screen. Not well integrated with the production as a whole, the screen seems a ploy to earn the show a trendy "multimedia production" label.

Perhaps a shade too meandering for its own good, ". . . Come Back to My Feet" feels quite long enough when it stops (it's too inconclusive to conclude), around the one-hour mark.

Still, you have to admire the entire creative team for daring to be eccentric and for striving to evoke, rather than merely show off.

. . . Come Back to My Feet

Cirko De Mente. General director and co-artistic director, Andrea Peláez González; co-artistic director, Juan Ramírez; executive producer and video assistant, Sergio Alejandro López Sánchez; VJ and animation, Nicholas Chinokoff; lighting design, Gregorio Trejo; lighting assistant, Azael Hernández Sáenz; set assistants, Ernesto Canek Saemisch Zenzes and Nicolás Ormazabal; costume and makeup design, Javier Moreno; music editor, Juan Ramírez. With Francisco Javier Raoms Aceves, Leonardo Costantini (also technical coordinator), Nathalia Abitia Cuevas, Andrea Peláez, Yatzín González, Miguel Gutierrez Nieto and Priscila Solórzano Sanchez. One hour. Through Saturday at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Call 202-467-4600 or (800) 444-1324 or visit http://www.kennedy-center.org.

Wren is a freelance writer.


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