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They’re Not Just Clowning Around
By James Yeara

Typo
By Jamie Adkins; co-directed by Jamie Adkins, Gypsie Snyder and Yves Dagenais

Cirque & Company, New York State Theatre Institute, Nov. 5

Typo, Jamie Adkins’ nouveau vaudevillian extravaganza, is 65 minutes of pure physical joy, the type of rush that comes when master entertainers let themselves soar. Done with a minimum of spoken words before Guillaume Lord’s bare-bones set (a 14-foot wooden ladder up left, old wooden boxes down left hiding the marvelous Ann Marie Levasseur’s piano, a wooden table and typewriter midstage center and, most significantly, up center, a wire-mesh trash bin full of crumpled papers full of typos), Typo is a whirlwind of fun. If you can imagine master clown Bill Irwin’s classic The Regard of Flight meets Stomp! on the set of Blue’s Clues, you can see the sounds and feel the sights of Typo.

Incorporating music, mime, juggling, balancing, mask (I defy anyone not to laugh when Adkins stuffs his mouth with multiple ping-pong balls, pushing them ever further into his cheeks until he resembles a chipmunk with a thyroid disorder), hat tricks, tightrope (“funambulism,” the teacher’s guide points out) and slack-wire dancing (“walking” is too pedestrian a gerund to use in describing Adkin’s skill), Typo has something for anyone. A squirming 7-year-old in the row behind me whined loudly, “What’s going on mommy?” as the lights went up on Adkins, perched like The Thinker on the chair in front of his typewriter, ripping out a sheet of paper, crumpling it, pitching it and missing the wire basket. But by the time Adkins was juggling the crumpled paper, along with ping-pong balls, then juggling the balls by blowing them out of his mouth (some 20 feet into the air), the 7-year-old knew what was going on: laughter. Adkins has a preternatural balance and a gleeful smile that mirrors Irwin’s grin of good cheer. As each lazzi (phsyical routine) plays out after Adkins types, reads, then crumples the sheet, the laughter builds. It was like listening to the rhythm of waves, waiting for the routine to build, and build, and build, then curl and crash with laughter.

Yet during these 65 minutes, in which the dynamic duo create smiles and guffaws in the audience, they also captured a shy Chaplin-esque glow between two would-be lovers, which sparkles as they walk upstage into the setting sun by Typo’s end. The mad displays of physical prowess are displaced by a tenderness that is touching. Typo is a deft demonstration of clowning, acrobatics, and comic mannerisms, more sleight of body than just mere hand manipulations; but it also possesses a longing ache to be something more, have something more, be with someone more—this is the mark of great clowning. Typo is a show that makes no mistakes about where its body and its heart are heading; they are both going where the laughter is, and where something more can be.

Typo was a sight to see; but, more, it was a marvel for the feelings it evoked, and that makes for a singular show that will hopefully soon return. We need all the laughter, grace, intelligence, and tenderness that we can get right now, and we need to remember that ache to be something more than we are.

 

“It was like listening to the rhythm of waves, waiting for the routine to build, and build, and build, then curl and crash with laughter.”


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