‘A Little Business at the Big Top’ at TheaterSpace at George Mason University

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Masterful! David Gaines solo performance was clever, skilled and totally engrossing. Using only his body, facial expressions and some gibberish, he transported the audience to the circus, both in the ring and the melodrama behind the scenes. Over the course of an a little more than an hour, the players were so well defined that Gaines was able to fully act out a very readable cartoonish version of of good guy gets girl with the help of a dog and a monkey while the bad guy is doomed.

David Gaines. Photo by Ruth Rado.
David Gaines. Photo by Ruth Rado.

Gaines style was reminiscent of mime, but in a much more evolved form. In questioning the author/performer as to what he would call his style, descriptors such as “non-verbal theater,” “cartoonish,” “gibberish,” and “the marriage of Chaplin and Popeye played in an absurd and frantic style” were all possibilities. I would summarize it as brilliant non-verbal theater finely honed by a masterful actor. Audience members, including several children, were in stitches.

Each character was introduced with enough detail that it was easy to identify them. As the performance progressed, fewer and fewer gestures were needed to recognize each. The damsel was first shown through the use of movement indicating a dress, her gloves, the fastening of a ponytail, a heart-shaped face, and a smile accompanied by ‘bing.’ By the end, she could be defined by two characteristics, the heart-shaped face and smile with a ‘bing.’

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Exploring the essence of each character to make them recognizable by only a gesture or two allowed the stage to be filled with multiple players, all easily identified. Gaines ability to showcase interactions between characters employed an action by one, followed by a 360 degree turn and a slow motion reaction by the other party. The time to change from one character into another was almost as fast as it would take one to follow the action and reaction by two corporeal actors.

To get a better feel for the unique style of David Gaines, watch his solo performance of Kurosawa’s 7 Samurai movie via the link below. The epic movie is retold at comic breakneck pace by one self-described “exhausted and ridiculous actor.”

Running Time: 75 minutes, with no intermission.

A Little Business at the Big Top played at George Mason University’s TheaterSpace – 4400 University Drive, in Fairfax, played for two nights only: November 7 and 8, 2014. For tickets. The full list of performances comprising the Season of Innovation: Mason Fringe can be found online.