There is method in this madness. The method is the art of the mime, which empowers this tall, spidery figure with a chalk-white face to create four high walls out of thin air and hands groping desperately for some way out. The madness knows no bounds - from a lover who attempts suicide by tickling himself to death to a gleeful flasher who finds happiness with a lady of equal immodesty.
The show is called "Illusions of Fantasy" and the performers are two young actors, Bob Lawson and Jerry Prell. Though based on classical mime, "Illusions" strays irreverently from the hushed poignancy that the public associates with a performance by Marcel Marceau. It includes elements of dance, mask work and slap-stick.
Prell and Lawson project their illusions Wednesday through Sunday at 8 p.m., through July 16 at the ASTA Theatre, in a room that used to be a garage. That might be considered a step up for these actors who developed their act doing street mine last summer in Georgetown. It was good training in endurance, says Lawson. "In street mime you have to keep going. Once you stop, the audience just leaves."
The first half of the show, titled "Daydreams," is a series of vignettes portraying the fantasies of two children, playing in an attic. Pulling hats from an old trunk, they become cops, robbers and actors in a broad parody of "Romeo and Juliet."
"Delirium," the second act, explores the unconscious in its more exotic aspects - ". . . smokers, fairies, gluttons and other contrivances of our madness" (in the words of the program), '"Delirium' . . . contains more of us," says Lawson. "We wanted to be original as well as creative," adds Prell.
"Original" suffices to describe a skit in which a gynecologist, going to improbable lengths in the course of an examination, ends up exploring his patient's interior rather in the manner of Lloyd Bridges exploring an underwater cave.
Even children enjoy this skit, according to Prell. "They set different things - the meaning is in the mind of the beholder . . . The appeal is universal."
Both Prell and Lawson intend to move into "straight" acting roles in the future. They reflect their interest and training in dramatic theater - Lawson at Vassar College. Prell at Carnegie-Mellon - in their mime rendition of Shakespeare's seven ages of man," in which haunting Elizabethan music provides a graceful backdrop to miming, which is often also sensitive acting.
In "Illusions of Fantasy," these performers, both only in their early 20s, have done well in adapting the discidition of Shakespeare's seven ages of the range of their vital imaginations.
Prell calls their show "mime for the common man," and "Illusions" does demonstrate the art's universal appeal.
Fliers for the show jokingly give it an "X" rating. But the humor, even when overtly sexual, is never prurient, and innocence and playfulness prevail.