Thursday, October 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Review: LEO

Leo, produced by Y2D Productions with Chamaleon Productions, reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield. Created by Tobias Wegner, featuring William Bonnet, directed by Daniel Briere.

Review: LEO

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By Wendy Rosenfield

for the Inquirer

The concept behind Y2D Productions’ LEO is, like most great ideas, deceptively simple. On one side of the stage, there’s a screen: vertical, rectangular. Beside it, there’s a room: ceiling, floor, two walls, lightbulb, horizontal, rectangular. Inside the room, performer William Bonnet sprawls on the floor, feet pressed up against a red wall. That room and everything he does in it appears onscreen, but tilted 90 degrees. That’s all.

But what a difference 90 degrees makes. LEO gleefully defies the laws of gravity. As Bonnet climbs the walls, his bowler hat and tie refuse to behave as they ought, flying upward when they should fall. His gravity-bound movements mimic precisely the angles and postures of upright behavior--a tilted head, strutting gait, and while it’s a delight to scan both Bonnets, toggling between his magic and the secrets of that magic revealed, the show’s creator, Tobias Wegner, and director, Daniel Briere, know this one trick will grow thin long before their hour’s up. Once a bit--a singing briefcase, a chalk-drawn living room--has been explored, they wisely shift the production’s theme another 90 degrees by adding animation, or switching music and mood from Tchaikovsky to techno. 

Wegner includes among the show’s influences Fred Astaire’s famous ceiling dance from The Royal Wedding, but it’s easy to spot a wide range of influences here, from Buster Keaton to Alfred Hitchcock to Canadian multimedia theater artist Robert Lepage. Wegner is Berlin-based, while Briere is Canadian and Bonnet French, though he has performed with Montreal-based FringeArts favorites 7 Fingers. The show was also a hit at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

All this is to say that LEO has a universal appeal (assisted by its lack of dialogue), and is perhaps the best-suited of all this year’s FringeArts offerings to drop jaws in every age group. But even more important at every age is the reminder that a subtle shift in perspective can sometimes change everything.

Playing at: Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St., Sept. 12, 6 p.m.; Sept. 13, 6 p.m., 9 p.m.; Sept. 14, 2 p.m.; Sept. 15, noon, 4 p.m.; Sept. 17-19, 6 p.m.; Sept. 20, 6 p.m., 9 p.m.; Sept. 21, 2 p.m.; Sept. 22, noon, 4 p.m. Tickets: $20 to $29. Information: 215-413-1318 or www.FringeArts.com

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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