Review – Silent Poetry – Dean Hatton – 5 stars

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by Matthew A. Everett • August 5, 2008 •

(Well, I’d normally quote something from the show here, but it was mime.)

(Even the program was just a gesture from the ushers, not an actual piece of paper.)

Single White Fringe Geek (and Mom) is the blog of Matthew A. Everett, one of five bloggers covering the Minnesota Fringe Festival for the Daily Planet.

Don’t worry. Contrary to what the publicity images might lead you to believe, there is no white face. There is no French black and white striped outfit. There are, however, a lot of laughs. There is also a great deal of beauty. Plus some food for thought thrown in for good measure. This is mime you don’t have to feel weird about yourself for liking.

Dean Hatton understands that mime is a hard sell. He calls the production a collection of non-verbal comic and dramatic skits. But “Silent Poetry” is also billed as a tribute to Marcel Marceau, a teacher of Hatton’s. And you can’t say Marcel Marceau and pretend you’re not talking about mime. But there are no invisible walls, there is no climbing of stairs, this is no pulling on ropes, there is no walking into a stiff wind. Hatton’s not trafficking in the cliches of mime. He’s doing what mime does – create something out of nothing. And the something he creates is pretty wonderful.

A mix of children and adults in the audience were equally entertained and charmed. He begins with “Alfred” – a man at war with his own hands. He finally has to strangle one. It’s a goofy battle of wills.

Then, one of my favorites, which I’ve seen before as part of a showcase production done by Maximum Verbosity – “Jackass The Mime.” He’s a street mime who falls back on the usual bag of tricks but nobody’s buying. Until he rolls his eyes at the injustice of it all and pretends to kill himself. Suddenly, passersby are interested, and putting money in his hat. So he must pretend to kill himself in ever more creative and gruesome ways in order to keep the money flowing and keep his audience from drifting away. A little dark, but still very funny.

We also witness the “Creation of the World,” where God is faced with the reality that when he creates the animals, the animals create feces. Guess who God creates to help him clean up the mess?

Another favorite was “The Soldier and the Butterfly,” in which a grunt in a war zone is dogged by a butterfly which seems to be indestructible and unshakeable. I found myself wondering just what secret identity that butterfly might be hiding. A fascinating little vignette, with some metaphysical underpinnings beneath the laughter.

There was also a man who couldn’t find a flower to cooperate in the whole “she loves me, she loves me not” routine, another man who kept drifting off during the sermon at church into science fiction adventures, and a concluding sequence of kite-flying which was quite lovely.

A lot of the things about clowning and what they’re calling physical theater work these days that I’ve come to admire, I’m starting to realize that they share a lot in common with mime. For all I know, maybe they actually come from the mime tradition.

I don’t give out five stars lightly. Dean Hatton knows his stuff. “Silent Poetry” is a production which fully engages the audience’s imagination, and fully engaging an audience is not an easy thing to do when you never say a word. There’s music. There’s a costume or two. But at its core, “Silent Poetry” is Dean Hatton creating something out of nothing. It’s quite something.

Very Highly Recommended.

Remaining Performances – Mixed Blood Theater TONIGHT – Tuesday, August 5, 7pm Saturday, August 9, 8:30 pm Sunday, August 10th, 1pm

Entering his sixth year of blogging about the Minnesota Fringe Festival (and bringing Mom along for the ride as a guest reviewer), Matthew A. Everett is also a local playwright and three-time recipient of grant support from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Information on Matthew and his plays can be found at matthewaeverett.com.