Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Gonzo Night School"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark

"Gonzo Night School"

Created and Directed by Joe Smith

Lighting Assistance by Marc Olivere
Stage Manager Lyn Liseno

Actor....................Joe Smith

At one point in "Gonzo Night School" a character breaks into a quick, wild, flailing improvised dance, and then moments later repeats it so meticulously it looks like a film re-run. Joe Smith's mime is never "pure" --- he uses props and costumes and speech! --- but a basis of physicality is always obvious. And his sketches are all character-driven. He is a precise, concentrated mime with an inventive comic mind who prefers the term "actor". Five of the nine bits are adult-ed classes gone awry --- such as a low-enrolment Mime Class forced to combine with one in Tae Kwan Do, and later in the bit to integrate one in Improvised Rap as well. The mime doing the teaching obviously isn't pleased, but audiences certainly are.

One of his techniques is a simple stare. The mime teacher stares frowning out at his class with such controlled rage his jaw-muscles are in knots. Later an instructor in Job Interview Techniques stares longingly in mid-sentence, about to give in to an obsession so off the boar.. off the wall, the wall as to defy description. (No one obsessively licks chalk off blackboards, do they?) An Interpretive Dance student stares before each selection summoning some inner muse. He is interpreting, in dance, selections on the menu of the Chinese restaurant where he's a waiter. (I said Smith has "an inventive comic mind" already, didn't I?)

Smith also uses recorded off-stage sound. He covers costume-changes with school announcements over the intercom. (One is a class in The Use of Off-stage Sound to Cover Costume Changes.) He hits the floor running when the rap-music rhythm begins. He stands onstage in conversation with a record of his own voice. A pocket radio one character carries shorts-out and blasts back to life on-cue. At times some teachers from previous sketches apparently talk off-stage while another is on. And, as a variation, at one point Smith has an animated conversation on a cell-phone so real that the Unheard half is obvious.

At ten bucks an hour, the evening will set you back $15 and twist your mind into giggling, guffawing jelly worth much, much more. This mime must be heard to be believed.


"Gonzo Night School" (till 21 January)
Boston Playwrights' Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, BOSTON