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Friday, September 7, 2012

Eccentricity and Time Travel: "Time Flies" from Le Petomane


Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble presents
Time Flies

Review by Keith Waits

Entire contents copyright © 2012  by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Kristie Rolape, Tony Dingman, Heather Burns and Kyle Ware in Time Flies.
Photo courtesy of Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble.

I have yet to see a Le Petomane show that lends itself to easy synopsis, and the latest entry in the company’s cavalcade of highly creative, all-original theatre constructions is no exception. As a reviewer, the dutiful recitation of plot can be a drudge. So a show like Time Flies is a relief, since there is virtually nothing resembling a conventional narrative structure to be found on stage.

We are instead presented with a series of comic vignettes and songs in which some highly eccentric “flies” illustrate a handful of lesser-known historical stories (with varying degrees of accuracy) picked, at random, from a bright red, ribbon-like time line. Whether it is good history may be a point of some debate. But the tale of John Harrison’s marine chronometer, while staged with wit and sprightly comic grace, seems to be reasonably based on fact; while a visit with Leonardo Da Vinci takes enough liberty to merit an acknowledgement of same within the performance. But it’s all great fun, full of ingenuity and grace; and in the finer moments, it sneaks in some metaphysical musings about the ephemeral nature of time and human existence. It even throws in a quick nod to temporal mechanics for the sci-fi geeks. (I’m sure I saw a couple in the audience.)

As high-concept Le Petomane shows go, the core ideas were typically offbeat and well-packaged. The costumes were quirky but also especially rich in texture, with a sumptuous, albeit analogous, green and earth-tone palette. Yet the enterprise seems just short of fully developed, and the strongest material arrives earlier in the evening before a noticeable creative lag in the home stretch. The clever and striking opening was a simple idea starkly executed for maximum effect and was followed by songs good enough to shame Broadway composers grown wealthy off mediocrity. The John Harrison sequence was particularly well designed, with adroitly idiosyncratic movement and timing from Tony Dingman; and the recurring framing sequences of “opening” the time line in a highly ritualized fashion were carried off with enough style and bombast to provide ample reminder that we were treading fertile satirical ground.

Yet, even if the production stumbled ever-so-slightly (truthfully, the story featuring molasses monster did not work for me, despite the gung-ho execution), it is one of the virtues of this company’s work that they rarely belabor the audience’s patience: the show clocks in under 90 minutes and moves with a pace and energy that keeps the audience well engaged. Time Flies once again proves to be an intoxicating blend of silliness and intelligence that is a hallmark of Le Petomane’s best work. These guys are simply incapable of doing a truly dumb show.

Created, directed, staged and performed by Heather Burns, Tony Dingman, Kristie Rolape and Kyle Ware.

Time Flies
September 6 - 16, 2012
Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble
At The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205

Tickets: $8-$20 on the usual Le Petomane sliding scale
Contact us at LePetomane.org or (502)609-2520 for tickets.
For pre-show dinner reservations, call The Bard's Town at (502) 749-5275.

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