Monday, January 16, 2012


Photo/Heiko Kalmbach
Presented by The Carol Tambor Theatrical Foundation as "The Best of Edinburgh Festival"

The wonderful thing about YouTube videos is that they tend to be short. They can present some innovative and creative concepts and then wander off while you're still marveling at the technique. Leo, on the other hand, is a sixty-minute play that doesn't overstay its welcome but ends up losing much of its charm. This solo, wordless bit of clowning revolves around one concept, and once it's exploited that, the play becomes a work of diminishing returns. Cool, but incomplete, particularly compared to some of other recent festival gems, like Paper Cut, Legs and All, or Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer

Don't get me wrong, though: for a scattered twenty minutes here and there, Leo will positively delight and flip your world upside down -- or more literally, flip it ninety degrees. To the right of the theater, a man lies on the blue floor and leans his legs against the red wall; curiously, a lightbulb juts out from the left wall. On the left side, however, we see a projection of the same thing . . . only now, the man is leaning against a blue wall, with his legs on the red floor; the lightbulb now hangs properly from the ceiling. Using his physical strength, Tobias Wegner continues to sell the projected illusion; after a while, he begins to "cheat," dancing to Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola's choreography in a way that has him hurtling through the "air." Save for a reptitious middle, Daniel Briere's direction keeps building upon the concept, particularly as Wegner begins to chalk out a room of his own (along with a little help from animator Ingo Panke). Thanks to all the tricks, Wegner is literally able to pull himself up by his own bootstraps. 

And yet, without a story, Leo feels much like a tech demo for Heiko Kalmbach's video design (there are some nifty ghosting effects that blur the future and past) and an audition piece for Wegner (perhaps for Cirque?). You should still definitely see this production -- the whimsy alone is worth the price of admission -- but just know that what falls up still eventually goes down.

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