There are many varieties of entertainment without the benefit of verbal expression; art, orchestral music, dance, puppetry are just some examples where the audience must rely solely on visual and aural input to determine meaning. The same is true of mime and pantomime (using the terms interchangeably although there are scholarly distinctions which really aren’t worth introducing here).
In Broken Box Mime Theater’s production of Skin, it is up to the members of the troupe to tell a story only with faces, bodies, and (original) music, asking its patrons to “listen” in a whole different way. Through the course of 15 shorts, it does just that, to the delight of the audience.
Watching these men and women pantomime even the briefest of sequences–a lizard molting and breaking free, a snail gliding across a floor, a waitress clicking a ballpoint pen, a chisel sculpting marble, a man catching the foam of a freshly opened beer–is fresh, imaginative and demonstrates keen attention to detail. Without props and words, such level of detail can’t be taken for granted and must be maintained with the utmost concentration. It only takes a momentary loss of focus for the intent or continuity to be lost; for example, in a brief second, one performer lost track of the beverage he was holding; had it been a real glass, it would have crashed to the floor and broken into pieces.
Relying on storytelling without words can be subject to interpretation (or misinterpretation); it was even possible to miss the intent and get lost in some of the longer scenes. For example, “Fall From Grace”, though passionately performed, was abstract to the point that this theater-goer and his companion couldn’t discern a cohesive story. By and large, however, the vast majority of the scenes were successfully playful, humorous, charming and full of ingenuity.
If your exposure to mime has been limited to television commercials and walk-by park performances, or even if you’re an enthusiast, treat yourself to the distinct pleasure of seeing a Skin.
Skin plays through February 3, 2019 at at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street at 10th Avenue). For information and tickets, visit here or call 800-838-3006.