“Mummenschanz” at the Mondavi Center

This weekend, the Mondavi Center hosted the Swiss visual theater company Mummenschanz.

The show is a series of sketches, all silent, using shadow and light and a range of expressive sculptural masks and puppets. Mummenschanz has been performing around the world for 40 years, and it’s clear why.

The performance Saturday night was charming. Though it seemed odd at first that there was no music or speech in the performance, the strangeness quickly dissipated. Sure, there was no verbal communication — but there was visual communication in abundance.

In the second skit of the performance, it dawned on me exactly how brilliant Mummenschanz is. The lights came up on a small platform and what appeared to be a large beanbag or perhaps an overgrown potato beside it. This potato then tried to get atop the platform and somehow told the story of the human struggle along the way.

Yes, that sounds utterly ridiculous. And perhaps it is. An oversized beanbag eloquently and silently telling the story of struggle and triumph. But that’s the beauty of Mummenschanz. The wordless universe they create is remarkably expressive. The company is able to transcend cultural barriers to tell tales of love, anger, amusement and wonder.

A friend of mine — an accomplished actor, puppeteer and clown — joined me for this performance. He couldn’t say enough about the high quality of the show.

Though Mummenschanz has moved on in its tour, it is well worth the time to see. Check out their tour dates and further information HERE.

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