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Marcel and The Art of Laughter

Jos Houben in THE ART OF LAUGHTER;                                                 photo by Henry Grossman. 




                                                by R. Pikser


To open its season this year, Theater for A New Audience has invited Jos Houben and Marcelo Magni to perform an evening of two pieces, both dealing with humor, both a bit cruel, like life, and both leaving us wiser than we were before.  Mr. Houben and Mr. Magni trained in mime under Jacques LeCoq and have worked together for many years.  Neither is in the first bloom of youth, yet each has complete control of his instrument.  For many, showing that skill would be enough, but these two are true examples of that much bandied-about term, “artist.”  They put their skills at the service of their minds to explore life and to teach us all something. 

Marcel is a sort of Everyman.  He bumbles, he is confused, objects attack him, but he perseveres, and we think he will be all right, especially as he always comes back from adversity with a glint in his eye.  During the course of the piece, as he undergoes some sort of strange examination to renew his license as what? a perfomer? He engages us.  He is pushed along by an examiner who is the epitome of officiousness as played by Mr. Houben, though with just enough moments of encouragement to put us off our guard.  We certainly recognize the examiner.  As the piece progresses, we are not so sure Marcel will triumph, though we by that time have come to love him. We are pulling for him.  His indomitable spirit perseveres to the very, very end, even beyond, and, who knows, maybe there will be hope.  If there is hope for him, maybe there will be hope for us.  His spirit stays with us after we have left the theater.


Marcello Magni in MARCEL; photo by Gerry Goodstein


Having experienced laughter, pathos, and some cruelty in Marcel, we are then treated to Mr. Houben’s lecture-demonstration, The Art of Laughter, which in some ways explains why Marcel touched us so deeply.  Mr. Houben bases his analysis on the vertical posture of Homo sapiens and the dignity we think it offers us.  When we are made to lose that verticality, laughter begins.  It grows when there is a reaction to the loss.  It grows more when there is a reaction to the reaction.  As After leaving the theater, we can verify these truths.  But this is not just a lecture.  Each idea is demonstrated, some a couple of times.  Some, with the help of audience members.  Once again, we are treated to a master in control of his body and his intellect who puts them at our service, showing us parts of ourselves that we recognize, and that recognition, too, is a source of laughter. 


Mr. Magni and Mr. Houben make us fall in love with their work and, because of their work, with them.


Theatre for A New Audience

Marcel and The Art of Laughter

October 27th- November 19th 2017

Polonsky Shakespeare Center

262 Ashland Place

Brooklyn, NY

Tickets $90-$100 ; Students $20 with restrictions; Group discounts

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