31Dec

Review: The Magic of Mummenschanz Hits the NYC Stage Again


The only thing better than experiencing the show Mummenschanz at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in NYC this week was the expression on my son’s face throughout the entire performance.  He was riveted and did not stop smiling from the show’s start to finish. The show was unlike anything even I, myself, had ever seen before and I shared his enthusiasm, which was one reason I glanced at him constantly throughout the show.  The look on his face exemplified everything I feel about culture and bringing it into my children’s life.  Not only do I often blog about my cultural experiences, but I relish them.  When we hit a home run, like we definitely did with Mummenschanz, it rocks my world.  It also rocks my children’s world and contributes to their entire well-beings and how they perceive the world around them.

I didn’t know a lot about Mummenschanz before, but I did hear a lot about it from everyone I talked to prior to the experience.  People on Twitter sent me messages saying that they’d seen the group perform in the 70s and 80s when they were children and how eager they were to take their own children to the NYC run.  At the show itself, the people in front of us, and directly behind us, spoke to us about having had the same experience when they were kids and had looked forward to bringing their own children with them all these years later.  They had been waiting for the show to return to NYC for some time (it hasn’t been here since 2003).  The show ran on Broadway in the late 1970’s and had a very successful run at that time.  Founding member, Andres Bossard, has passed away since then, but co-founders Bernie Schürch and Floriana Frassetto still perform, and they have since added two players, Pietro Montandon and Raffaella Mattioli.  The group, who hail from Switzerland, use a variety of puppets (life-size) and abstract costumes (mostly black to hide in the dark behind objects they are maneuvering) to create elliptical illusions.  They also use interesting forms of bizarre masks and forms, light and shadow.  There are floating balloons that roll into the audience and an inchworm made out of a tube that catches it; life-size hands that “eat up” audience members (which kicked off the show); one of the performers lets two different theatre-goers have a go at her blank black box of a face with masking tape; slinky type objects that roll around the stage; two characters who come out wearing masks, looking a particular way, and manage to contort their expressions (out of clay) every which way they can.  It’s not easy to describe what we’ve seen, so I hope you get the gist.

Mummenschanz is child’s play and your children will be amazed by what appear to be special effects but is actually creative use of body movement and art.  It’s magical, especially considering that the concept came to life over 30 years ago.   The performers are very experienced and their bodies are flexible and limber enough to twist, contort and fold into various shapes.  I didn’t realize that they were the same performers from the show’s debut, and when they took off their masks at the show’s finale, I have to admit I was a little surprised, quite pleasantly, to find this out.

Mummenschanz is playing at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts down at NYU until January 8th, so you still have time to get your tickets and see it.  For more information, go here.  Billed as “a groundbreaking performance of movement and transformation the whole family will love,” it’s good for children of all ages.  Catch it while you can.  While you’re in Washington Square Park, get a glimpse of the beautiful Christmas tree underneath the arch, with a view of the Empire State Building in the distance.  It will complete your night in more ways than one.

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