Music and Dance Reviews : 'Best of Mummenschanz' in Fullerton

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," a silent two hours of mime, mask and puppetry movement theater from the 21-year-old company, seen in Fullerton over the weekend.

Inside the friendly entities--or outside, dressed in black unitards and oversized mask-sculptures--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 hijinks.

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, gracefully maneuvered by the humans hidden in their bellies, rolled 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.

But the same point could have been made in half the time.

Still, 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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