New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

Ethnic Theater - Jewish

Union Square Theatre, Manhattan

The Israeli-based dance troupe Mayumana has hit New York like an explosion with its newest show “Be.” It is billed, not as a dance troupe, but as an “internationally acclaimed rhythm-dance-performance phenomenon” (which may well be the right definition). “Be,” meaning “to be,” is an appropriate title, since this show is very much in the moment.

A good deal more than dancing goes on here. With its ten able young performers (five men, five women on stage), the relentless rhythmic beat, the exuberant movements, the wild images all add up to an experience. In terms of New York City geography, it is a mix of the “Stomp” beat and the Rockettes precision—East Village mixed with Radio City Music Hall. It’s also circus, vaudeville, magic, tribal rites. The performers pour their hearts, energies, bodies into this 90-minute non-stop assault. It is a tribal world, abetted by costumes and movement.

But is it a show that appeals to adults? Before the matinee we attended, looking around the audience, we should have known at once that that “Be” is what is known as a “family show.” The audience demographics (preponderance of children and parents) provided the clue. And though the Mayumana performers are very good at what they do, highly professional, they are children talking to children. Or at least the child within each lurks just beneath the surface, ready to connect. Shtick, site gags, corny physical humor set the tone. Everyday objects convert into drums. Some one gets bashed in the head with a frying pan, and the children howl with laughter.

Just what kids love, but, for an adult, “Be” ultimately bores (unless you’re luckily with your grandchildren). Ninety minutes of noisy non-stop rhythmic sound can be endless. Yet there were softer moments which appealed to this graybeard—a delicious belly dance, haunting moments of flamenco guitar music and dance. But generally the performances were asexual, more fierce and warlike than seductive. Pity the poor male who meets up with the show’s formidable women!

Israeli co-directors/co-founders Boaz Berman and Eylon Nuphar are visionaries. who acknowledge their debt to “Stomp,” but have definitely put their own mark on the show. And they’ve recruited performers who can carry out their vision. The show has an international style, not only in material, but in the cast itself—which comes from Spain, Mexico, Switzerland, Palma de Mallorca, and the Ivory Coast, as well as Israel. Total cast, beside Berman, includes Sharon Ben Naim, Alba Bonal Garcia, Eva Boucherite Martin, Vicente de Andres, Silvia Garcias De Ves, Michael Feigenbaum, Ido Kagan, Yael Mahler, Taly Minkov, Reut Rotem, Ido Stadler, Aka Jean Claude Thiemele, and Hila Yaffe.

And finally kudos must go to the talented design team, which is an integral part of “Be”—Nizan Refaeli (sets), Neta Haker (costumes), Eyal Tavori (lighting), and Amir Schorr (sound).

All told, this reviewer prefers a show, musical or otherwise, with more depth, meaning, and lasting memories—and less noise. But your children or your grandchildren will love it.

-- Irene Backalenick
March 5, 2007

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