BEST STAGE PRODUCTION Minneapolis 2001 - American Safari
Jacques Lecoq, Jacques Lecoq--sometimes it doesn't seem like a week goes by that we don't hear about another theater taking its inspiration from this French educator. Who would have expected he would have so profound an influence on the Twin Cities? But in the world of physical theater, there is another influence of equal note: Etienne Decroux, who taught that most despised of disciplines, mime. Yet if we steer clear of those dreaded street performers with their imaginary boxes and striped shirts, we stumble across something quite interesting. Decroux's school of "Dramatic Corporal Mime" brought an intensity of focus to movement that had previously existed only in dance. Kari Margolis and Tony Brown, students of Decroux and founders of the Margolis Brown Company, seem to pop their heads up locally only once or twice each year, but when they do, it is always a joy. The couple shares a preoccupation with the kitschy detritus of American pop culture that feels somehow very Minneapolitan (one imagines them scavenging for hours at thrift shops). They laid this obsession bare in American Safari, their most recent touring production. Brown performed as a hapless Everyman lost in a world of suburban iconography, where everything from lawn barbecues to animatronic characters at Disneyland carries bizarre, disheartening messages. Brown has a considerable comic stage presence. This newspaper compared him to comedian and song-and-dance man Danny Kaye, but having seen Jacques Tati's Playtime once again, we will say that he is also like Tati. Both men are amiable but utterly lost in the modern world, and therefore subject to constant physical mishaps. As with Tati, the results are funny, yes, but also strangely melancholy, as though moments of desperate panic, sorrow, and bewilderment were being replayed as slapstick.