Populated by giant hands, vacuum-like hose creatures, and toilet paper people, the Swiss mime troupe Mummenschanz created its own world and has lived in it, to international acclaim, since 1969.
To commemorate the company's 25 years since first appearing in New York, Mummenschanz will play a two-week engagement at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, Dec. 20-Jan. 4, 1997. The venue couldn't be more appropriate, since Alice Tully Hall was where the troupe made its American debut. According to producer Anne Geenen, that performance was so raved about by Anna Kisselgoff in the Times, she essentially launched their career.
Bernie Schurch and Andres Bossard, masked mimes, formed the troupe in 1969 and were joined in the early 1970's by Floriana Frassetto. At first, speech was incorporated into the bits and sketches, but words were eventually dropped to make the performances universal.
The word "mummenschanz" means masquerade or mummery, taken from mummen (mask) and schanz (luck, destiny). Swiss mercenaries in medieval times wore "mummenschanz" masks to hide their facial expressions while gambling.
The performers combine acrobatics, contortionism, dance, mimcry, balance and slastick comedy, all based on fluid movements of the human body. The idea is to show "how close we humans are to other creatures and how, like them, we are perpetually on the edge of being stretched beyond our capabilities." The troupe has entertained all over the world, including Russia, Japan, Israel, and the Spoleto and Edinburgh Festivals. On March 30, 1977, they opened a self-titled Broadway show for a one month engagement -- that ended up lasting three years. Mummenschanz's last New York appearance was in 1994 with the Big Apple Circus. Their current retrospective show, titled, "Parade."
For tickets ($25-$35) to Mummenschanz's 15 performances at Alice Tully Hall, call (212) 721-6500.
-- By David Lefkowitz