‘Lebensraum’ a worthy tribute to silent-era comics
BOSTON — Silence can be a lot of things — golden, deafening.
But silence in the Dutch production “Lebensraum” (“Habitat”) which ends a short run this weekend (April 13) at the Paramount Theatre Mainstage, part of Arts Emerson’s “The World on Stage” Program, can also be hilarious, especially when it is accompanied by mime and a little bit of stage magic.
The performance piece conceived and directed by Jakop Ahlbom takes place in a home that bears more than a small resemblance to the home in the delightful and zany TV show “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.”
There are a hilarious set of Rube Goldberg-type devices to do mundane thiongs such as passing the salt and pepper and on its whole is a homage to the silent-movie antic of comics such as Buster Keaton, and indeed the action unfolds as a live-action silent movie.
Performers Reiner Schimmel and Yannick Grewelziner at one point conspire to build a doll (Silke Hundertmark) who will perform cleaning duties. But this doll has a mind of her own, and soon goes on her own merry way, creating comic chaos.
I had an organist friend named John Kiley who eventually played organ for all four Boston pro sports teams. He got his start performing alongside silent movies in Boston’s grand old movie houses.
Here the alternative rock band Alamo Race Track — Leonard Lucieer and Ralph Mulder — provide a live soundtrack with electric guitars and other assorted instruments and join in on the action from time to time, in their costumes that match the crazy wallpaper on the set.
There are pratfalls, jumps, all kinds of routines involving props, all requiring concentration, strength and split-second timing on entrances and exits on the part of the participants. The set is festooned with trap doors and the like.
The skills of the performers are a testament to the kind of training European actors go through, training across many different platforms before embarking on a career in the performing arts.
“Lebensraum” is always engaging, often very funny, a worthy tribute to the comics such as Chaplin and Keaton who often had us transfixed without saying a word.
Lebensraum (Habitat) Conceived and directed by Jakop Ahlbom, Original music by Alamo Race Track :Set, Yuri Schreuders and Jakop Ahlbom. Lights, Douwe Hibma. Doll, Rob Hillenbrink/Rob’s Propshop Through April 13 at Paramount Center Mainstage :http://www.artsemerson.org