BWW Reviews: LEO- A Twisted Perspective
It's all about perspective. Leo, played by one-man actor-acrobat, Tobias Wegner, comes to us straight from the Berlin-based Production Company, Circle of Eleven. A simple, yet interesting concept of skewed reality where, because of innovative staging under the direction of Daniel Briere, Leo's world is transformed into a gravity-defying universe right before your very eyes.
The stage is split in half, where we see Tobias Wegner perform live on the right side, yet a large projection screen on stage left rotates the image to make his "real" floor the wall, thus distorting reality and visual perspective. I found two major errors with this concept. First, without actual speaking, interacting with others, or even having a major plot line, I quickly lost interest and 70 minutes of the same thing seemed to drag on a little too long. Second, I found my eye constantly moving from left to right, comparing and contrasting the two performing "Leo's" and how they synced with each other. This, too, was quite exhausting after a while. In today's age of brilliant film editing and spectacular cirque-du-soleil acrobatics, I felt like neither concept was strong enough to carry the entire program. However, just as the stage was split in half, so seemed to be the audience reactions, and many were truly captivated.
A slow start, Leo begins by sitting on his suitcase, waiting, whistling, and listening to the tick-tock of a clock. Finally, once he opens his suitcase, all the magic truly begins. Music beats and he dances to an odd mis-mash of funk, rock, classical piano, accordion, and even ol' Blue Eyes, all while varying the angle and perspective of his movements. Probably the most intriguing was the chalk scene, where he draws simple images, such as tables, chairs, lamps, fishbowls, etc. on his "wall," and by the image screen rotation, makes the audience believe he is actually sitting on that chair and interacting with those images. Brilliant use of video animation by Ingo Panke then brings some of those images to life, creating an interesting array of colorful illustration, acrobatics, and video mastery, all while making the audience believe Leo is swimming from a mass of sea creatures to the classical works of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. He then shows off his gymnastic talents by climbing walls and executing batman-like stunts with impeccable precision. Tired? well, so was Leo, who retreated back into his corner and disappeared into oblivion.
Although the concept is simple yet innovative, Leo lacks the strength to maintain constant interest in this lackluster production. Tobias Wegner executes a fine performance; however, the true stars of the show are Heiko Kalmbach and Ingo Panke, whose creative geniuses are displayed throughout original video editing under the direction of Daniel Briere.
Leo is presented for a limited engagement through Sunday, February 5 at The Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues). The performance schedule is Tuesday at 7; Wednesday – Friday at 8 PM; Saturday at 2 PM and 8PM; Sunday at 3 PM. For tickets, which are $48.25, call Telecharge at 212-239-6200 or online at www.telecharge.com, or visit http://www.theatrerow.org/theclurman2.htm
Photo Credits: Andy Phillipson and Heiko Kalmbach