A brown blob is in the middle of the stage. The brown blob moves, it tries to blob onto the platform, it fails.
"What is that, a giant hamburger?" says a small child in the audience.
No, that is not a giant hamburger. That is the first "act" of "Mummenschanz" -- literally "masks of chance" -- a three-person mime troupe that is playing at the Kreeper Theater through July 13.
Although this strange collection of moving shapes and headdresses has played to great success all over the world, it is hard to see why.
After the brown blob comes a large ball draped with multicolored fabric. It bops around the stage a bit and leaves. Then we get a caterpillarish creature that crawls around. It leaves. Then a green thing -- a kind of round jaw creature -- munches on catches a smaller thing and spits it out.
The kids loved it. They saw colorful shapes and funny movement, and for them, that was fun. In fact, the reactions of the kids in the audience were the most interesting part of the evening.
In truth, "Mummenschanz," for all the technical skill of the costumes and masks, is boring, boring, boring. There are no charcters, no stories, only the barest hint of a point of view, and nothing happens on stage other than human Play-Doh bending into different shapes.
This is not traditional, classical mime. Even the somewhat recognizable animals -- a rabbit, monkey, cat, etc. -- are representational rather than realisitc. "We want to break the conventions of the 'white face,' of concentration on facial expression and creating the illusion of specific objects," one of the original creators is quoted in the program.
In the second act, the creature features are replaced by head gear. Such as the toilet paper heads -- rolls of toilet paper attached to a head in the approximate vicinity of eyes, ears, and mouth. First the man toilet paper head comes on, then a lady toilet paper head, with pink rolls, presumably to symbolize feminity. They communicate by -- you guessed it -- unrolling the toilet paper. Soon there is toilet paper all over the stage.
One sketch attempts a kind of message. Two characters appear with bags on their heads. One bag is removed to reval a man in a half face mask. The woman's bag is removed to reveal a wrapped present. Later that comes off and she too has a face mask. They start to each other's masks. Soon their faces are a mess and they get sick.
"Mummenschanz" is a largely formless, meaningless kind of theatrical doodling that strives for nothing more than cuteness. The artistry of the costumes and masks is indeed impressive; but animated sculpture does not make an uplifting or even amusing evening at the theater.