The sounds of silence are beautiful in a spectacular new show by the playful team of Swiss puppeteers known as Mummenschanz. The wordless You & Me was created by Mummenschanz co-founder and Artistic Director Floriana Frassetto and features a strong ensemble (who are nearly always invisible to the audience) including Christa Barrett, Kevin Blaser, Sara Francesca Hermann, and Oliver Pfulg. Playing at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, Mummenschanz will delight audiences of all ages.
Using a wide array of materials in various shapes, sizes, and colors, the troupe uses clever movement and lighting to create poetic images that “tell a story” in short vignettes, all without uttering a word. The “puppets” are often simple shapes that a performer gets behind or inside and manipulates to move in a certain way or to look like something else--sometimes it’s a face or figure, sometimes it’s an animal, and sometimes it’s just a huge amorphous blob that moves in the simplest way to create something recognizable. These shape-shifting figures are visually unique and can range from funny to sad to poignant all with the smallest movements. They are even sometimes interactive.
The performers being all clad in black, they almost always blend into the background, so all the audience sees is shapes floating in space. This has a dazzling effect during a particular scene in which jellyfish, giant squid, seahorses, coral, and other underwater creatures come to life. When the performers bodies are seen on stage, their faces are always hidden by something, a mask or some other device, such as a musical instrument. Here, the physicality of the performers, who sometimes engage in acrobatics, can be fully appreciated.
Mummenschanz has been around since 1972 and is showing no signs of stopping, even updating its act as evidenced by one scene featuring “electronic devices.” The troupe continues to do really special work and it’s always a delight to see what they come up with next.