PERFORMANCE REVIEW : Mummenschanz Slinks Down a Tedious Path

They're ba-ack! Ten-foot-tall gray blobs, giant alien insects, a colossal Slinky, a Gargantuan doughboy hand and more.

Relax, it's not a B-movie. The creatures from the black proscenium are actually the squiggly organisms of "The Best of Mummenschanz," two silent hours of mime, mask and puppetry movement theater from the 21-year-old company, seen at Plummer Auditorium over the weekend.

Inside the friendly entities were new (as of 1989) Mummenschanzers Barbara Karger, Peter Locher and Thomas Prattki, performing material created by the original artists Andres Bossard, Floriana Frassetto and Bernie Schurch.

Nearly all the routines on the bill were seen here during the troupe's visit last April. But this time the bits were grouped in a way that emphasized the similarities rather than the differences of the goofy hi-jinks.

Yet you can only present so many variations on even the most beguiling theme before it becomes tedious--which is what happened about halfway through Act II.

The first part was a parade of creature-features. The brown beanbag blob, the behemoth sea slug and others rolled gracefully up and onto a thrust platform as the little nippers in the house shouted encouragement ("C'mon, you can make it!") to the ungainly beasties.

Then, during the second half, the animated lumps gave way to a variety of PG mating dances in which the now visibly human performers wore gag mask-headpieces: a briefcase, spools of toilet paper, or parachute faces that inflated and deflated as the bodies chased one another.

The lesson throughout was the extent to which we project human feelings onto even the weirdest of beings. But the same point could have been made in half the time.

Even if you've never seen Mummenschanz, its material seems familiar because such movement theater--first made popular by the Swiss trio in the early '70s--has wormed its cutesy way into everything from dance to advertising.

It may be exactly this familiarity that makes the redundancy in "The Best of Mummenschanz" show a liability. If the Zurichers are to hold onto their reputation as innovative, they've got to move on to a wider range of themes, if not techniques.

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