Review: LEO

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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