nytheatre.com review by Robin Reed
September 6, 2007
In order to get my date to see Billy the Mime, I had to assure him that the show was not going to be some dork in a striped shirt trapped in an imaginary glass box. Going into it, I'm not sure he was convinced, but after 90 minutes, I think I might have a Mime Fan on my hands.
In AmericaLoveSexDeath, Billy the Mime pulls from his abundant repertoire of physical routines based on top media headlines, controversial celebrities, and conceptual pastiches of Americana. Spanning centuries of American history from Thomas Jefferson to Jeffrey Dahmer, from World War II to the 1960s, from the morning of September 11th to a night in San Francisco 1979, Billy conveys sharp and biting social commentary. Without words.
It is immediately apparent that verbal language is not necessary for Billy to tell his stories. The simplicity of the piece, from performer to design, is astounding.
Which isn't to say that it's all nice or pretty. Billy fearlessly takes on the ugly side of American culture. There were many times during the show where I found myself thinking "he's not going to go there" and He Goes There. A piece titled "The Priest and The Altar Boy." He went there. "A Night With Jeffrey Dahmer." He went there. And he especially Went There with "Terri Schiavo, Adieu," the shortest yet most powerful piece of the evening. And I willingly went with him.
That's the beauty of it—the work really calls for participation on the part of the imagination of the audience. Billy creates very distinct and complete worlds. At times, a situation is immediately discernible; others come together over the span of the whole piece, but each offers a unique and thorough perspective. It's all at once provocative and titillating, sardonic and unsettling; it's movement–based theatre for the Daily Show sensibility.
Billy breathes life back into the near-dead art form of mime. He is an insanely charming and likeable performer. His physicality is precise and elegant, his body a lithe and honed storytelling vehicle. Even his face, though painted and powdered, conveys expression bar none. And his deep respect for the form is clear.
This is truly a very special experience by an exquisite performer. It absolutely should not be missed.