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THEATER REVIEW : Seattle Mime Theatre Is Mesmerizing

January 14, 1991|JAN HERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRVINE — They walk. They gawk. They even talk.

They are the Seattle Mime Theatre, a wonderfully entertaining threesome that showed in three abbreviated concert pieces, lasting little more than 20 minutes total, why immovable objects and kinetic forces are all the more real for being invisible.

On Saturday they also had the largely kiddie audience at the Irvine Barclay Theatre believing in things that didn't exist. One youngster behind me was absolutely certain that the floating Hula Hoop in "Dream" had hidden strings attached to it. Otherwise, he reasoned out loud, how could it hang in the air like that?

You couldn't blame him for believing in non-existent strings any more than you could for believing in the illusion of heavy furniture being pushed around the stage or the epic tug of war in "Etcetera," to say nothing of the incredibly elastic bubble gum or the incredibly shrinking pane of glass or the antic apes who cavorted on and off the stage.

As for those escalators and stairways and revolving doors in "20th Century Vector Movement," it was--to quote another youngster--"Awesome!" I frankly know of no better way to describe my own reaction, except to add that Bruce Wylie, Richard Davidson and Jean Hamilton were also very funny. The humor, in fact, was precisely their point.

But anybody who has seen the work of these mimes elsewhere, particularly the pieces mentioned above in their full-length forms, was bound to feel shortchanged by this presentation. At least I was, especially after staying past the intermission for the trio's comparatively unimaginative, 40-minute version of "Pinocchio."

Admittedly, "Pinocchio" is what the kids came to see. And clearly the story of Gepetto's puppet was tailored to the very youngest in the audience, all of whom seemed to be having a grand time.

Still, for a top-notch troupe such as this one to pass through Orange County without displaying the full depth and range of its art was a shame. It was, with some exaggeration, like going to a Pavarotti recital and listening to the great opera singer do pop tunes.

The irony is that nobody but the public is to blame. A second show devoted to the trio's more sophisticated repertoire apparently drew so little interest at the box office when it was scheduled some months ago that the presenter, UC Irvine Arts and Lectures, decided to cancel it.

The attraction of a kiddie show in family-oriented suburbia notwithstanding, maybe we'll get a better program the next time around. Let's hope the programmers took note that the too-short excerpts of the concert pieces were more satisfying, even as a tease, than the too-long "Pinocchio."

\o7 Seattle Mime Theatre, a presentation of UC Irvine Arts and Lectures at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on Jan. 12. Sponsored by Lively Arts at UCI. Works performed were "Etcetera," "Dream," "20th Century Vector Movement" and "Pinocchio." With Richard Davidson, Bruce Wylie and Jean Hamilton. "Pinocchio," written by Carlo Collodi, was adapted by Tony Montanaro and directed by Douglas Leach. Scenic, costume and mask design by Davidson, Wylie, Elizabeth Roth and Pat Tyler. Lighting design by Terry Simpson.

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