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Mimes go outside the box on stage

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Mime is, to say the least, a niche style, and probably not one you would expect to come across as the main attraction of a production. “Topography,” presented by Broken Box Mime Theater, is exactly that — an artistic, understated and unpretentious performance consisting entirely of mimes.

It may be surprising to learn that, in 2014, mime has a place in the New York independent theater scene. In a city full of rock ‘n’ roll Euripides adaptations and performance art based on screaming, it is unexpected to see a genuinely classic art form without self-consciously modernized twists and embellishments. This is not to mention the rarity of performing an inherently quiet genre on stage.

Those who hate mimes will probably not have their opinions changed by “Topography.” The show is completely mimed, presenting a traditional performance of this art form — white faces, black lipstick and all. For those who do not know much about mimes, this performance will be a pleasant introduction.

Broken Box’s cast includes very talented and well-practiced mimes who flawlessly execute their choreography. The program is structured in a series of vignettes that tell an array of stories varying in length and subject matter, from a serial about three nerdy kids’ adventures within their favorite role-playing game to a darker sketch about the foreboding visions a fortuneteller has about one of her clients. The tone varies from poignant to comedic, and the humor alternates between situational and traditional mime silliness.

Though the vignettes had little to do with each other thematically, the show is well-arranged overall. Comedic scenes provide relief to more somber ones, and stories broken up into serials are well-paced, although some of the longer narratives become hard to follow. The writing is undeniably creative, with the short “Shadow” standing out, telling the story of a failing relationship in a way that no other medium would be able to replicate.

The performance space is used well, positioning actors as both characters and environments in a way that is enlightening, not overwhelming. Soft indie music and mellow instrumentals complement the stories while adding a more contemporary feel. Creative use of light helps to tell the stories and bring the art of mime into the 21st century.

“Topography” proves that mime is very much alive as an art form, and it tells compelling stories in novel ways. If this is contemporary miming, the style of performance may find itself in vogue. It certainly is not be weirdest thing onstage in New York.

“Topography” is playing at the Wild Project, 195 E. Third St. through Oct.19.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 7 print edition. Email Ariana DiValentino at [email protected]

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NYU's Independent Student Newspaper
Mimes go outside the box on stage