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Shows Worth Seeing:

Hans was Heiri
By Zimmermann & de Perrot
BAM Harvey Theatre
651 Fulton St., Brooklyn
Box office: (718( 636-4100


The seven performers in this delightfully strange production from the Swiss group Zimmermann & de Perrot contort their bodies in wildly improbable ways, hang onto the moving edges of spinning scenery like insouciant chimps, and find their way in and out of innumerable wildly absurd predicaments, such as: finding the center-of-gravity between a person and a leaning chair, running along the sides of a huge moving cube, and fitting inside a small cardboard box so that one’s legs are free to flee a pursuer. This is physical comedy raised to the level of metaphysics, as the performers all possess not only fantastic circus skills and astonishing strength but also specific comic personas that help define their various gags as mini-dramas of wonder, disappointment, despair and self-actualization.

The main set element is a rotating “house” made of four compartments (each roughly seven by seven feet), inside which all manner of scenes play out, including a yoga class for six people led by a wonderfully vain guru utterly oblivious to the space-crunch, and a letter-writing effort by a woman at a desk who never flinches or pauses while turning upside down and sideways. The show begins and ends with the appearance of string puppets from the flies, and part of the point of its magical world seems to be to prove that human performers can actually aspire to the mysterious, gravity- and death-defying quality of puppets and cartoons. There are indeed enormous vistas opened up by this aspiration, particularly when you get as close to truly resembling animated objects as these actors do. Gordon Craig famously opined a century ago that actors in the modern era must aspire to puppet-status—endeavor to be “super-puppets” rather than ego-driven individualists—if theatrical art was to avoid withering on the dying trunk of 19th-century realistic convention. If you ever wondered what Craig was getting at, go see Hans was Heiri.



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