|Photo by Mark Vancleave|
Built around the idea of Hans Christian Andersen as much as the man himself, Open Eye Figure Theatre's The Clumsy Man
presents a character in constant motion, never finding rest during the 75-minute show.
Created by Michael Sommers and featuring the additional talents of performer Kimberly Richardson and musician Dan Dukich, the work is typically confounding. Sommers rarely makes it easy for the viewer to parse out what exactly is represented onstage at any moment.
What we are left with, then, is a string of set pieces that, when taken on their own, can be quite compelling, but never merge together into a fully satisfying whole. Richardson is a gifted performer who fully inhabits her character. Dukich provides some equally awkward original music to build the off-kilter vibe, and Sommers crafts a string of high-quality visuals that are often arresting.
There are true highlights as well. The opening (after a short lobby-area greeting, complete with cookies, drink, and paper crown) finds the three performers skittering around the stage in identical 17th-century costumes topped up with an insanely tall hat to the sounds of Grinderman's "No Pussy Blues," ending with a squalling, furious guitar solo.
Richardson, with her costume, large fake nose, and oversized shoes, brings out the clownish look of Andersen, and uses it to inhabit the man's awkward life and personalty. Moments from stories, especially "The Ugly Duckling" underscore the man's own troubles with personal expectations, desires, and sexual confusion.
That last bit is perfectly encapsulated when Richardson shares an embrace with herself via an overcoat sitting on a hanger. One person suddenly becomes two, though it always feel as if the second person is just a fantasy for our character; dreaming of what he wants to be, but won't be able to act upon.
Still, the lack of narrative connecting tissue, or even a sense of overall shape, makes the whole process frustrating, as it is never clear if the proceedings are building to a conclusion, or just ending when the creators have run out of material.
IF YOU GO:
The Clumsy Man
Open Eye Figure Theatre
506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis
506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis, MN