nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
February 24, 2011
Accomplished performer Joe Mazza has taken his one-man show (plus film segments, trained fleas, puppets, etc.) called The Hyperbolist to last year’s New York International Fringe Festival, Building Stage’s 2009 Chicago Festival, and now brings it to Frigid 2011. In the intimate space of The Red Room, Joe greets all patrons at the door and learns their names. Throughout the very funny, interactive performance, Joe involves everyone in the quest for love.
The eyeglasses Joe is wearing at the beginning are taken off to reveal a lot of black eye makeup. And then, after some pronouncements on love, the clowning begins. Several silent films are screened in which Joe is feeling lost in the big city, disoriented when he passes a hot dog joint and can hear the cries of cattle, plays furiously at a miniature violin just trying to connect with another person, and discovers a vengeful cross which beats him repeatedly over the head. Old time music accompanies these escapades. In the dark of the theatre, a spotlight catches Joe’s puppets, who are also trying to figure out what love is.
Joe’s next persona is wearing a tattered white smock/lab coat. He poignantly introduces two trained (invisible) circus fleas with the poetic names Dante and Florence. Of course, the fleas won’t do their tricks without audience applause. And what tricks! I think the highlight is waiting for Florence to climb a dizzyingly high ladder to dive into a thimble.
It takes a lot of energy to create the universe of this show. Discourses full of large words subtly weigh the audience down so they can gradually discover, and appreciate, the happiness they had before. I think the puppets in particular are masterful, especially in taking on heavy religious themes in a minimalist setting. Susan Ask and Dan Kerr-Hobert are also to be commended for directing Joe through such a wide range of material and emotions.