Question: What’s funnier than a clown? Answer: A clown in nothing but a towel. This evening of clowning, masks, dance, theater, songs, and storytelling was anchored by the talented performer/director Jeff Mills, who began the evening by coming onstage in a red clown nose, red shoes, a red bath towel—and not much else. As anyone who has ever held their breath and watched as a cascade of confetti rains down on someone who should be soaking wet knows, clowns rely heavily on the anxiety of anticipation. In the evening’s eponymous opening number, Mills had us all laughing as he negotiated the stage in a variety of modesty-preserving expedients, including, at one point Jim Connolly’s acoustic bass. Connolly and Anna Abbey punctuated the program with graceful, affectionate covers of such 1980s classics as Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me with Science.”
A sprawling single set of two hours duration, Piezoelectric Love consistently exceeded expectations. Whether it was the acrobatics of “The Trials of Dash and Dot,” in which Mills and Deven Sisler performed a wacky assortment of unorthodox lifts, all while cracking wise, vaudeville-style, or the NPR-ready ironies of Michael Bernard’s personal essay “Confessions of a Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Parent,” the show held together as a personal statement and as an emerging theatrical aesthetic.
“The Prisoner” was a quick slice of silent film comedy, delivered live to the music of Perez Prado by Charlie Faith, Rudy Martinez, and Matt Horn. “Skin and Hearthstone” was a post-modern apache dance for Mills and Christina McCarthy that never failed to get the blood flowing. And Bernard’s aforementioned “Confessions” piece was like imagining David Sedaris as a parent—in other words, funny, frightening, and real.
“The Curie Point Part 1” was the evening’s most tantalizing glimpse of potential. A mask piece based on the lives and the love story of Pierre and Marie Curie, it was choreographed and performed by Mills and Michaun Barner as a kind of live trailer for an upcoming full-length performance. The segment was powerful and made extraordinarily elegant and expressive use of Lindsay Rust’s beautiful masks, originally crafted for Boxtales Theatre Company.
In the cleanup spot, Mills and Charlie Faith hit Alan Arkin’s acting exercise run amuck one act Virtual Reality out of the park. With accents straight out of Scorsese’s Depahted, and attitude to match, Faith and Mills took the audience on a psychedelic joyride through an actor’s kaleidoscope. This is black box theater the way it was meant to be played.