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Theater Review

`Do Jump!' Needs to Aim a Bit Higher

Robin Lane's aerial-act variety show at the Geffen offers amiable, irony-free entertainment, but some routines drag on too long.

November 16, 2001|MICHAEL PHILLIPS | TIMES THEATER CRITIC

The diversionary tactic known as "Do Jump!" isn't anyone's idea of a barnburner. Few if any barns will be burned in the vicinity of the show's Geffen Playhouse run, which opened Wednesday. In fact there are no barns in Westwood, but if there were barns, they'd be safe.

"Do Jump!" hails from Portland, Ore., and it operates on a pre-anthrax, irony-free brand of entertainment. Essentially a fringe festival offering that has landed, unruffled, on the Geffen stage, Robin Lane's variety show blends aerial acts, some kite flying, much audience interaction and an utter lack of guile.

It's not a show that busts its hump trying to come up with clever variations on a theme. When a certain circular pattern on the aerial rings is established by Daniela Steiner, Wendy Cohen and Kelli Wilson, for example, you may as well get used to it.

Roughly half the segments work fine on their own terms. I liked "Something From Nothing" (a visual fooler featuring disembodied hands, free and ready to play, in glowing black light) and some of that aerial business, especially featuring Steiner, the cast's charismatic standout.

The less potent stuff cries out for a good clown or two. Physical comedy routines such as "Power Lunch" (execs tumble and fall over themselves, and each other) stretch the payoff until it snaps. The same goes for the most ambitious section, "Doors," in which the cast members find themselves at odds with six vacuum-like doors on a two-story structure. Different scenes of domestic bliss (a make-out session, someone in the bathroom reading a paper) are revealed with each new swing of the door.

"Do Jump!" is buoyed by Joan Szymko's original music, if not necessarily by her more protracted sing-along bits. Mike Van Liew and Courtney Von Drehle co-wrote the live score, played by a small combo perched above the audience. The charts resemble Nino Rota (Fellini's ace composer) trying his hand at klezmer. It's the right idea for any venture trading in the ethos of the sideshow.

Right idea, and not a bad evening, although a surprising number of the segments in "Do Jump!" wear out their welcome early. At times it reminds you of an after-school circus-skills program souped up for adults, but at heart aimed for the Kid in all of us.

"Ennio," last year's Geffen holiday family offering, was more to my taste. But there are worse things in the world than a sweet-natured, low-pressure whatzit like "Do Jump!"

"Do Jump!," Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 and 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 and 7 p.m. No show Thanksgiving. Additional show Wed., 2 p.m. Ends Dec. 16 (no 7 p.m. show). $30-$46. (310) 208-5454 or (213) 365-3500. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Wendy Cohen, Thomas P. Gallahan,

Robin Lane, Daniela Steiner,

Aaron Wheeler-Kay, Kelli WiIlson,

Robin Woolman and David Brittain...Principal company members

Jennifer R. Cohen, Nami A. Hall, Yoji Hall, Heather Pearl, Nicolo (Inyan Kangi) Kehrwald...Alternates

Joan Szymko, Mike Van Liew, Courtney Von Drehle, Mike Partlow...Band

Joan Szymko, Piper Pack, Bonnie Snell, Julia Watkins-Davis...Lead singers

Charissa Arlen, Rachel Evans,

Eleni Karas, Valerie Madamba,

Stephanie Walker...Ensemble

Conceived, choreographed and directed by Robin Lane. Original music by Joan Szymko, Mike Van Liew and Courtney Von Drehle. Costumes by Annie Warnock, Poppy Pos, Daniela Steiner, Katharine Salzmann, Heather Pearl. Lighting by Tad Shannon. Additional design by Laura Fine. Production stage managers Tad Shannon and Sy Parrish.

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