Friday, February 23, 2007

PLAY: "The Curse of the Mystic Renaldo The"

Seeing a show like The Curse of the Mystic Renaldo The makes me glad, for the first time, to be a blogger. This is the type of show that I'd rather discuss casually than sit down and ponderously review. It's too experimental a work to pin down to one genre, or to classify neatly for a studious audience: it is a surreal mockery of seriousness that can be as entertaining one moment as it is frustratingly obtuse the next. And it's not for everyone: art rock mixes with vaudeville, and silent film flows giddily into live pantomime. The end result is a show so different from everything else, but so true to itself that it blurs the line between good and just being quirky.

The 3 Legged Dog performing space promises a blend of multimedia and theater, and it's nice to have a group that dedicated to the possibilities of the future. But it's actually the multimedia that holds The Cruse of the Mystic Renaldo The back. Once the scrim collapsed and the live show began, with its eccentric mix of prerecorded footage, I found myself actually enjoying the sheer forcefulness of Aldo Perez's character (and there's no doubt he's a talented comic actor). But at the same time, the constant shifts from scene to scene left me feeling disconnected from the center of the work: we see so many layers to Renaldo The that we never see the character himself, just the template of the sketch that Perez has created.

At one point, Perez throws out the phrase tableau vivant, or "living picture," and that's an apt description of his show. You should know, though, that the artists they've modeled themselves after are the tortured ones, like Van Gogh, and the surrealists (like Escher and Dali) who contribute not only to the convoluted scenes but to Paul DiPietro's brilliant set, a dilapidated miniature world like something from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Perez's cohorts add much to this world too: Richard Ginocchio, who plays Renaldo The's silent valet, has one of the most pained stares in the world (though he can't always keep a straight face), and Jenny Lee Mitchell (who plays the sexy maid), has one of the best ranges that I've seen on the New York stage.

I can't say that this is a great show or not; I squirmed as much from discomfort as in delight. But I was moved by The Curse of the Mystic Renaldo The, and I was impressed by the determination of the actors to maintain such an eccentric facade. Thing is, weird as Renaldo The may be, there are plenty of crazy characters just like him lurking around the cabarets, and if you're going to see a show dedicated to them, you'd better be sure you like their act first.

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