Cho H Cho
nytheatre.com review by Cate Cammarata
July 12, 2012
Once again a new work developed at Mabou Mines challenges and delights its audience with innovative and compelling theatre. Cho H Cho presents an explosive commentary on our current social condition, exploring the issues of consumption (and over-consumption) in a globalized world economy. Sex and politics, philosophy and economic theory are punctuated by Dada and physical theatre in a stunning collage that entertains and delights the eye as well as the mind.
In Cho H Cho, the fun begins even before the show starts. A woman staggers through the lobby, apparently ready to give birth any second. She is followed by a "House Manager" who interacts and clowns with the audience before leading them to their seats. We are then treated to a black-and-white Monty Python-esque video prologue, featuring a grotesquely overweight puppet that consumes everything—including food, glass bottles, rugs, etc.—and then explodes. A Joel Grey-type "Master of Ceremonies" begins the show against a setting that is reminiscent of a pre-World War II German cabaret, and introduces the subsequent scenes that blend one heady idea into the next. Colorful and flamboyant, he contrasts with the neutral colors worn by other characters as well as the visually minimalistic design elements seen on stage. The set contains only a black box with a woman in the window; in an Oz-like fashion, she seems to be controlling much of what we see on stage.
The scenes flow in rapid succession, yet giving an impression of the bleakness and hopelessness felt by Europeans between the first and second world wars. For the two main characters Roi and Joan, life is a dance choreographed by forces beyond our control. Early in the play a monologue spoken by Henry Ford gives a plan for the United States to achieve economic prosperity by literally buying and selling other countries (and the souls therein). These ideas are brilliantly shaped by sequences of physical actions where the performers embody their thoughts even while discussing philosophy and euthanasia. As the play progresses into the 21st century, the visual drabness is replaced by the outrageous costumes, rock music and the pervasive technology that highlight both our exterior prosperity and our interior poverty.
Cho H Cho's director, writer and producer Daniel Irizarry also plays one of the main characters (Roi). He is a gifted artist with a lifetime of experience in physical theatre. His choreography for the "Dance of the Amputees" is incredible, as is a human staircase where the ensemble literally walks on top of each other. Laura Butler Rivera (Joan), who doubles as assistant director, looks like a young Imogene Coco and gives an equally impressive performance. The ensemble works well together, with a few standouts: Neil D'Astolfo (Ring Master), John Garett Greer (Henry Ford), John Gentile (Mundung) and Marty Keiser (Auctioneer). Sound design by Jorge "Fish" Rodriguez, costume design by Marea Judilla and Nadia Mori, and especially the lighting design by Yuki Nakase move the action seamlessly from era to era.
Yet the best part of Cho H Cho is the concept itself: humor and intelligence blended with the acrobatic and artistic to make meaningful economic and social commentary. Cho H Cho is outrageous theatre to be enjoyed now and analyzed later.