MUMMENCHANTA! -- At the Kreeger through July 13.
Mime is such a victory for the actor. Who needs all those troublesome words? Just open the door to the studio and let them see The Actor, using only his body in a black leotard, with a few simple props, to suggest the entire animal kingdom and all the human emotions.
Occasionally even actors' hyperbole turns out to be true.
This is pretty much what id done in "Mummenschanz!" a three-person, nonclassical mime show that originated in Switzerland and ran for three years on Broadway before showing up at the Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater.
This modern form shows the influence of cartoon animation more than that of traditional mime, in which part of the delight is getting the small story line.
For two hours, including an intermission when the performers entertain in the aisles and the parking lot, Mark Olsen, Mark Thompson and Claudia Weiss silently parody the movements of fantasized amoebae, insects, mollusks and mammals, and of human beings consumed with love, jealousy, greed and vanity.
True, those are not all of God's creatures, nor the entire range of human emotions, but in theartrical hyperbole, a good selection stands for the whole thing.
The first half of the program is more or less evolutionary, beginning with a huge animated bag and working up to another bag, which a creature enters as as monkey and leaves as a human. But there are other toys and distractions: a beautiful, shimmering balloon, a humorous green mouth with lolling tongue, a vacuum hose that playfully tosses its balloon into the audience.
From elaborate costuming effects, in which the antics of the actors are so acrobatic that it becomes impossible to tell whether the actual person is right side up or upside down, it evolves to simple ones. The creature that is used as the show's motif is an insect that, except for a white mask, is all human arms and legs.
In the intermission, members of the audience are asked to participate by using yarn or tape to make features on black-box faces worn by the actors.
At the preview show, children complied as instructed, but a grown-up man taped an X over the box. The performer expressed indignation and then taped him into his chair.
The second act is advanced acting class. Among the items used as faces are puzzles, rolls of toilet paper, modeling clay and writing tablets.
Because this show -- originated by Nadres Bossard, Bernie Schurch and Floriana Frassetto -- is ingenious and funny and deals with the essence of emotions in an abstract way, we label it an entertainment for children.