Presented by The New 42nd Street at the New Victory Theater, 229 W. 42 St., NYC, Sept. 27-Oct. 13.
Billed as "90 minutes of bliss," "The Junebug Symphony," a French import by James Thiérrée, is actually 45 minutes of bliss—with the remaining time full of silliness that seems like a standup comic's repartee with dance instead of words. It begins in sublime zaniness—Thiérrée is having a wretched time falling asleep, thrashing around under his white quilt, discovering extra prop limbs in his bed, which he yanks out and tosses to the floor. He is clearly a dancer-acrobat-actor of special merit (genes from his grandfather, Charlie Chaplin, for a start), and his company is superbly selected and performs with risk-taking commitment throughout. However, a motif that starts out so wistfully loses its distinguishing thread of continuity along the way and becomes buried in tricks.
To be fair, the tricks are glorious: flying trapeze antics on the New Victory stage (a bit worrisome, but safely executed), reading a book that spouts flames, opening a closet door and igniting a blaring symphony, pratfalls, fearless leaps into the wings (followed by crashing sounds)—vaudeville reinstated with a youthful vigor. A red carpet rolls out covering the width of the stage—padding for the amazing entourage of somersaults, air turns, and back flips that the performers deliver fast and furiously from wing to wing. But the man bothered by a sleepless night gets lost. Thiérrée might want to reinstate him to tie together the "amazin's" with a continuing theme (just as MOMIX or Pilobolus has done), giving shape and reason to all the physicality. At best, "The Junebug Symphony" is a "what's next"—a collection of feats that thrash at the audience at a madcap clip. It has charm, grace, and humor, but doesn't yet hang from a complete and unique artistic concept.