Under the Skiff
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
October 9, 2007
Clowns find their way inside you through the slightest expression. It's the power of clowning. It can be strange, tense, and joyous all at the same time. The creators of Under the Skiff find a good balance of these things.
Two women meet in the lobby of an immigration office and find themselves waiting for could-be-an-eternity for their numbers to be called. Everyone in the audience has a number before theirs. One of them is hoarding numbers forcing the other to create her own. Their boredom leads them to some beautiful and sometimes tragic moments of "let's pretend." They fish and they fight but in the end they find a little something in one another that helps them get through the day.
The simple premise leaves a lot of room for play and the performers, Maja Bieler and Jennifer Sargent, fill that room with their characters. They don't speak very much nor do they need to. Their story unfolds mostly by gesture, movement, and expression but there is a speech at the end that is insightful and sorrowful. It takes the show to another level. Sargent and Bieler are a great pair. They work together with equal precision and playfulness. Sargent has the most endearing worried look. She made me watch her. Bieler is intense and nourishing to the tension. They do a great job at building and then breaking the tension with unexpected innocence or imagination. Audrey Lamarque and Iciar Trespaderne collaborated with them in devising this piece. They all met clowning around in Paris.
The show has a great arc and I followed their trips and desires but something about the ending left me feeling unsatisfied. The storyline ends and then something else happens that seems incongruous. Still, the show is extremely charming and playful. Their performance is very natural and yet polished. These two find their way inside you quickly and they pull you along with them.
The New York Clown Theatre Festival is one of those cool and unique things the city has to offer. You can catch a show or take a workshop or follow some drunken clowns around on a clown pub crawl. So put your clown nose on and check out it out before it's gone.