Friday, July 17, 2009

Spread the word about Shhhh

The economy may have collapsed, and theatres may be closing left and right, but darn it, kids still want to put on a show, and they're still finding ways to do it.

Take Shhh! (at left), for instance, presented by New Exhibition Room at the BU Playwrights' Theatre. The script has been developed by the actors themselves, and it's being presented for free (at Kate Snodgrass's barn!). So what's not to like?

Indeed, not much. The performers are talented, the action light and clever, and yes, there's even a little nudity. The group takes its name from a troupe that illegally performed plays in post-Colonial Boston - hence, perhaps, the theme of its first show, a series of skits about censorship. That's "censorship" considered rather loosely, however - for after all, does not picking your nose really count as "censorship," as one skit would have it?

Somehow I don't think so - and that blurring of self-restraint with actual censorship is part of what keeps the show from becoming genuinely thought-provoking. For censorship is, of course, engrained in the "civil" part of civil discourse; we have to have it at some level to maintain respectful communication at all. But what level is "appropriate"? Should teens be sending each other pictures of their tits on their cell phones? Should folks on the T be allowed to scream "You cocksucking cum dumpster!!!"?

Shhh! in rehearsal.

Well, maybe yes, but maybe no. And if Shhh! had actually grappled with those issues, or developed the situations it sets up, it might have been really exciting. As it is, the sketches generally tease out an instance of censorship - admittedly, even in currently-celebrated social modes like "branding" and texting - then cut to the curtain. Still, give these folks (along with "contributor" Theo Gooddell) props for being consistently entertaining; these kids do know how to put on a show. The skits are witty and crisply directed (by A. Nora Long), and the cast - Melissa Barker, Nathaniel Gundy, Hannah Husband, Chuong Pham, Alejandro Simoes, and Christina Watka - is uniformly talented, and up for anything: competitive hula-hooping, cheerleading, stripping, you name it (rehearsal video, above). They perform in mime make-up , which struck me (again) as a slightly muddled metaphor. I mean, are mimes really self-censoring? But then who knows? Perhaps all Marcel Marceau was really trying to communicate was "Fuck you, you cock-sucking cum bucket!!!"


  1. I mean, are mimes really self-censoring? But then who knows? Perhaps all Marcel Marceau was really trying to communicate was "Fuck you, you cock-sucking cum bucket!!!"

    Having met Marcel Marceau, I can assure you that the man loved to talk-- preferably off-stage.

    Anyway, I get a bit frustrated that I have to keep explaining that mime is defined not by what it does not do, but what it aims to do: corporeal theatre.

    The silence is not the definition of the theatrical genre but the discipline a mime uses in order to develop a physical vocabulary.

  2. After seeing Shhh! I don't think the white-face was a reference to mime theatre; it was, along with the standard black costume, just an attempt to make the ensemble into variants of an archetypical human. (Which is one of the uses of white face in mime-- the other being an allusion to Pierrot and other related characters.)

    Anyway. It was a good evening of sketch comedy with a strong ensemble-- whether or not, as you point out, it really explored the topic of censorship. (Ironically, for a piece about censorship, I didn't see anything so edgy that I haven't already seen it, nudity included, on a Boston area stage-- though I confess that the nudity was handled more cleverly than is typical.)