- Photo by Oleg Micheyev
Through Feb. 15
"Making something out of nothing": That is the way one audience member described STOMP. In a sequence of scenes without dialogue, the young cast of dancers mimes broad slapstick comedy while making percussion instruments out of everyday objects, from broom handles to match boxes, empty cans and trash can lids. Judging by audience shrieks and giggles, it's is a great way to babysit kids (though be warned, the slapstick veered into a few "adult" references and bathroom humor). If boredom is the mother of invention, STOMP raises hyperactive fidgeting to fine art.
It's been 18 years since STOMP first entered theaters from its origins as U.K. street theater, so inevitably, pieces that at one time must have sung with improvisation have become fairly stylized. However, producers say two new scenes have been added to this tour. My guess is these are the two scenes that make use of sound amplification, providing the rumbling in the belly that audiences expect from cinema Surround Sound; the rest of the show relies, quite amiably, on natural acoustics.
For someone already enamored of polyrhythms, STOMP will pose no revelations, and in fact makes rather bland use of known historical examples. Apart from fleeting references to funk, techno, samba or tango bass lines, they mostly repeat an inexorable, if accessible, downbeat-heavy 4/4. Musically, the show is like a two-hour drum solo.
The concept piece has no "story line" per se, yet the set and costumes infer a context of "work" for the unisexed characters. But just who are these artfully disheveled and besmudged 20-somethings supposed to be? Subterranean dwellers of a futuristic world in which everyone has jobs? The visual spectacle would probably play just as well with characters dressed in Busby Berkeley-style top hats and tuxedos.
STOMP is pure stagecraft, like watching Shakespeare without the character-driven dialogue. Cool scenes included the jug band composed of empty watercooler bottles, martial arts-inspired stick fighting, and industrial-sized romper stompers fashioned from empty oil drums. While the cast engaged a willing audience in some fun call-and-response, it didn't have the charisma to push this show over the edge into breathtaking entertainment. No paint cans were dropped, but there was never any real suspense that they would be, either.