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All Wear Bowlers

The Beckettian vaudeville has returned to the Here Arts Center for a return engagment, from April 22, 2005 to May 29, 2005. Everything per Jenny Sandman's original reviews. -- e.s.

Trey Lyford and Geoff  Sobelle.
Trey Lyford and Geoff Sobelle
(Photo: J.J. Tiziou)
all wear bowlers is one of the more enjoyable and memorable theatrical experiences I've recently had. Called a "dreamscape vaudeville," it's a Beckettian exploration of identity and memory through two silent film stars. Two film clowns suddenly find themselves on the other side of the screen, trapped in the real world. Through their antics and explorations of their new world and new identities, they slyly poke fun at the audience, at theatrical convention, and at themselves.

Born from Ray Bradbury's short story, "The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair," all wear bowlers has been in development for three years, first playing to rave reviews at the 2003 Fringe Festival in Philadelphia. The show creates what performers Trey Lyford and Geoff Sobelle call "physical ventriloquism" What this means is that like true old vaudevillians, they can say volumes without speaking a word. Indeed, very few words are spoken over the eighty minute performance.

Much of the comedy is derived from slapstick, with the obligatory pratfalls and double takes, but it's also a very thought-provoking piece. Especially delightful are their interactions with the large film screen (and the film) and the human ventriloquism act later in the show. They produce unexpected objects, to the delight of each other and of the audience. The performers are periodically confused by eggs and even their body parts stretch and shrink and change surprisingly. all wear bowlers is obviously an exhaustively rehearsed labor of love by these masters of timing with their strong and intimate working dynamic.

Expect to be part of a boisterous audience. Vociferous laughter is encouraged. Also encouraged is beverage and food consumption in the theater itself, a welcome change from most theaters' policies (especially given HERE's inexpensive wine). While the antics are child-appropriate, some of the language is not, and smaller children wouldn't understand the larger existential overtones. Also, be sure to sit in the back row if you fear audience participation.

Since this is a small space be prepared for performances to be sold out but don't miss this joy. Filled with joy and mystery, it's the kind of piece that could never be reproduced on film or TV and that's in short supply these days. It's not an exaggeration to call Sobelle and Lyford enchanting performers.

Created and performed by Trey Lyford and Geoff Sobelle
Directed by Aleksandra Wolska
Films by Michael Glass
Lighting Design by Randy Glickman
Costume Design by Tara Webb
Sound Design by James Sugg
Running time: Eighty minutes with no intermission
HERE Arts Center, 145 6th Avenue, 212-868-4444
Wednesday through Sunday at 8:30 pm.
All tickets $20 --Open Seating
02/17/05 through 03/12/05; opening 2/20/05
Reviewed by Jenny Sandman based on February 19th performance
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