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Monday, January 27, 2020

Climbing the Wall

From the Vault Dept.: Some thirty years ago, Proctors in Schenectady tried a noble experiment by inaugurating a small, separate theater series dubbed Proctor’s Too. An engaging lineup of not-so-well-knowns was engaged, and every performance I witnessed was a dazzler. The first space was a small brick building across Broadway from the Proctors block, but the brief lease ran out and it was turned into a car wash before being demolished. The second incarnation was on the grounds of Union College. There was no third incarnation.


AT THE HEART OF THE SHOW – and the stage – is a large brick wall. It has ledges and hidden doors. It has an alcove. A clever fellow might climb that alcove with his back to one side and his feet jammed against the other, inching upward like a beetle.

Mur-Mur, but from a much more recent performance.
But the DynamO Théâtre, a Montreal-based group, sees much more of a challenge in such a wall. This quintet of acrobats, clowns, jugglers and mimes used it both as challenge and impediment during their short, furious show at Proctor’s Too last week. It was there to be conquered; it was also there to play against.

They assigned themselves roles as a sort of family of superannuated children. Two couples pair off right from the start, dancing their way into adolescent romance, while the fifth wheel, the Huntz Hall-like “Ralphie,” is a puckish mischief-maker.

There’s a little bit of dialogue and even less plot, but it isn’t story that propels this show. It’s the breathtaking energy of the movement.

Played to an original score by François Dupuis, “Mur-Mur,” which means Wall-Wall, sends the cast up, around and over the wall, dancing on its top, dancing at its sides, chasing one another around it. The comedy is slapstick, nicely done.

Being a free-form show, it accommodates a lot of change and variation. It’s nicely paced – you’re always given a moment at which to catch your breath before the madness starts again – with only a couple of draggy moments.

But there are captivating surprises, too. For no reason at all, the cast suddenly appeared in costumes of bricks, including astonishingly funny brick-like masks that caricatured the actors’ faces, to do another crazy, delightful dance.

And just when you think you’ve see it all, they top themselves. Even at the very end of the intermissionless show they held out a surprise, when gymnast Pierre LeClerc, with seemingly no effort, held himself up against the top of that wall with one arm and lowered his body slowly.

The other performers are Jacqueline Gosselin, Luc Dagenais, Roch Jutras and Guylaine Paul.

Proctor’s Too, now situated at Union College’s Nott Memorial Theatre, next presents Paul Zaloom’s “House of Horror” March 8-10.

DynamO Théâtre, Robert Dion and Jacqueline Gosselin, artistic directors.
Proctor’s Too, Jan. 18, 1990

Metroland Magazine, 25 January 1990

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