It’s Mime Time

Nathan Hall

It is impossible to determine the funniest part of 1991’s highly underrated Shakes the Clown. I would point to a scene where Bobcat Goldwaith, in the title role, must begrudgingly hide out in mime school after being set up on a bogus murder rap. Shakes views mimes as second-class citizens in his clown universe, which also sums up America’s historic animosity towards those recalcitrant silent ones. However, the jury is still out on Sleepwalkers, a new local production that employs mimes in its arsenal as a viable tool of feminist empowerment.

Put on by the perfectionist-driven Margolis Brown troupe, Sleepwalkers is the company’s first offering in nigh on 18 months. It is fitting that the vast majority of the cast was recruited from our very own drama department, since mime performance has become an increasing fixture here in the University’s introductory acting courses.

Regardless, mentioning miming in public still elicits uncontrollable shuddering, half-hearted japes at permanently trapping Marcel Marceau in a wind tunnel – and not too terribly much else. The plot here, thankfully, appears to be aiming at least slightly outside “the box.”

Drenched in metaphor, the play implements choral singing and puppetry along with the aforementioned miming in a story that is by and large primarily symbolic in nature. Troubled by superstitions and myths about the hereafter, 30 souls run into each other on an anonymous road. Set vaguely in the present, this play presents a universe in which dreams and reality begin to blur rather dangerously. Steeped in ancient mysticism and fantastical imagery, the characters become inextricably linked despite their best intentions otherwise. Religious fanatics, unknown prophets and suburban families are seemingly trapped in a half-asleep state. Their uneasy co-existence and ability to overcome mindless tradition are possibly at stake. Their fate hinges on realizing the subtle differences between their conscious and sub-conscious.

Sleepwalkers will be presented in conjunction with the seventh annual Minnesota Women of Substance series, brought to you by the good folks at the College of St. Katherine across the bridge. Sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the festival is designed to celebrate progressive women via a smorgasbord of chart-topping pop music, name brand lecturers and non-traditional stage action. If you’re still non-plussed, where else would you get to see Fiona Apple, Dr. Jane Goodall and anarchist puppeteers in the same place? If nothing else, it gives cash-strapped mimes a chance to ply their trade in these turbulent economic times.

Sleepwalkers plays through Sept. 29 at the O’Shaughnessy Auditorim, (651) 690-6700