Legs and All
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
September 14, 2010
Legs and All is the kind of art that you wish life would imitate more often. It takes the simple premise of boy meets girl and makes it magical and funny. Creators Summer Shapiro and Peter Musante have a vocabulary of gesture and expression that is refined and precise. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this show. It is classical clowning at its best.
It opens with a brief introduction scene with a voiceover in French and our two clowns in a box and then it launches into the story. Musante is a half-dressed man in an attic. He sports suspenders and an undershirt while closely guarding his chest of useless junk. He spots a ball on the edge of a box and cautiously picks it up with his butt. He exits and a hand pops up from the box. It's looking for the ball. It saunters along the edge and then reclines. Shapiro's head pops up. She doesn't trust the hand. She doesn't trust much of anything. Another hand pops up. She's outnumbered! Shapiro goes on fighting her hands and sometimes her legs until she finally encounters the man in the attic. She wants her ball back. He won't give it up. Soon they begin to try to draw each other into their respective worlds. He goes in first. She pulls him down into her box and, in a quick flip of the box, they pop out of the other side into her world. She attempts to serve him dinner but nothing in her world goes as expected. At one point the whole world lays over on its side and we find ourselves looking down on their little dinner. There is a chocolate frosting smudge that somehow gets passed to both their faces. He finally gets her into his world and they have the most awkward moment possible as they try, for the first time, to talk to each other. She eventually begins to trust him more as their intimacy grows. And they do it all without saying a word. Well, maybe a couple.
Shapiro is a master of physical comedy. I was really blown away by the tiny detail that she pours into every gesture and expression. She speaks volumes in the raising of an eyebrow or with the flick of her wrist. Her opening bit with her hand on the edge of the box was like watching a naked puppet. My mind formed a face and body around her hand because her movements are so filled with expression and emotion. I could really feel the hand's pain when it couldn't get its ball back. Shapiro conceived the piece and created the action with Musante. He shows a deft talent for physical comedy as well. He is charming and expressive with his whole body and innocent looking face. Their chemistry is powerful. Their timing and execution is dead-on. And they make all it look so easy. I really enjoyed the music as well. Designed by Jeremy Shapiro with an original score by Brandi Brandes it fills the silence with even more mood and emotion.
Legs and All is everything that makes clown theatre great. It's funny, clever, conceptual, and innovative. Shapiro and Musante raise the craft of clowning to new levels. This is a beautiful piece that should not be missed.