The show began before it began.
A small crowd of us gathered before the Belbas Theatre doors in the Washington Pavilion. Children dashed around clumps of adults from all generations. I was there with my family, eagerly awaiting “Road Closed to Pedestrians”, a mime and dance performance by Cie Macadâmes.
My interest in the show, beyond a general appreciation for art, stemmed from my relation to one of the producers, Jenny Brass. This stop was the penultimate stop on a cross-country tour for Make Theatre Company that had begun in Arizona and would culminate in the Twin Cities.
As the hour grew, ticket holders shifted from foot to foot; they looked around the room at the staff; they checked their watches and cellphones. Then a door marked “Employees only beyond this point” opened and a dark-haired woman, dressed in the bohemian rags of a stylized urchin, peered out. She crept into our midst, tightly clutching a large, beige piece of luggage. This Traveler, played by Clément Chaboche, stared at us with wide, dark eyes and cautiously plotted her way through the space.
Behind her followed a man with similar wardrobe and a bass clarinet slung around his neck. His manner was easy and casual, the opposite of the anxiety of his predecessor. He followed her as she wove through the crowd. The onlookers rearranged, like quicksilver, pooling around the ever-shifting focus.
The show had begun.
“Road Closed to Pedestrians” is roughly three acts. Act One was happening around us. The music was melodic and spacey, narrating the young woman’s actions around us. The group shifted around the woman but afforded me no improved vantage. I found Mary Brass, Jenny’s mother, and learned that this part, both performance and music, is improvised. While I literally couldn’t appreciate the performance, I could appreciate the artistry of it.
They led us into the Belbas. I juggled Ainsley, respecting her desire to not be set down whilst trying to extract our four tickets from my back pocket. We took our seats. The Traveler and Musician meandered through the seats and made a circuitous trip to the stage. As the audience filled in, the woman disappeared, and the Musician took up residence stage right. There he surrounded himself with instruments, digital and acoustic, and a microphone.
Act Two was much more musical in nature. The Musician, played by Julien Stella, used a technique I’ve been seeing more and more of: recording and layering short bits of audio which gets looped over each other. He built menageries out of beat box, clarinet, voice, and more, dutifully chastising the audience for not properly appreciating his music.
Then another man entered. I’ll call this character, played by Lilou Des Bois, The Sweep. Accompanied by the Musician, the Sweep dashed a rough rectangle across the stage using white powder. His technique involved a lot of gratuitous booty wiggling which didn’t resonate as much with the kids as I thought it would. Lilou must have noticed that, too, because around turn three he cranked it up.
A little interplay between Sweep and Musician rounded out the second act. The rough plot at this point consisted of a girl walking somewhere with a bag and the Sweep setting out a sign saying, “Road Closed to Pedestrians” (written in French).
Act Three brought everyone together. Our Traveler, bag in tow, set up center stage to sleep. The Sweep returned to find a vagrant occupying the space he needed to clean. What followed was a funny, elegant, active romp across the stage, as Sweep attempted to move Traveler out of his way.
The two leads dance well together, and their interactions play off naturally. I liked that none of the routine felt ostentatious; it all stemmed from the action in an authentic way.
My kids loved it. Ainsley sat mesmerized (a large feat for a sixteen month old). Ian laughed his head off. He loved it so much, in fact, that he raced down the hallway afterward hoping to catch “that girl” so he could put a stamp on her hand.
It was clear that the players work well together and enjoy what they do. I didn’t feel bored, which is probably what some people fear when considering “mime” and “dance.” The music was hip and grew organically; he shined in Act Two but retired and complemented the action in Acts One and Three.
In all they put on a very fun show, and I’m excited to see what future productions come from Make Theatre Company.