What makes this venerable trio's creations so cartoonish is the fact that they're humanoid rather than human: a Mummenschanz creature might have Mickey Mouse's skinny little black body, for example, but an even less human head--perhaps an oversize malleable bag in which the performer can punch a nose and eyes. A column of fabric isn't an abstract shape but a worm playing ball. By the same token, the relations between these strange beings are human only in the broadest sense: Mummenschanz sticks with basic instincts and humble appetites. One bit shows a giant mouth and tongue exploring, then gobbling an unidentified morsel. In another, a strolling man with a plug for a head connects--in the most literal way--with a woman whose head is a socket. What makes the troupe's mime and puppetry more than a cartoon is the role our imaginations play in the transformations onstage: it's fascinating the way two circles a certain distance apart will inevitably suggest eyes. After a ten-year absence from Chicago, the Tony-winning troupe--composed of original members Bernie Schurch and Floriana Frasetto and newcomer John Murphy--returns with a show perfect for children of all ages: Parade: A Retrospective is composed of vignettes culled from productions that toured between 1993 and 1996. Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 312-902-1500. September 10 through 12: Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 7 PM. $28-$45; half price for children; day-of-show student and senior rush discounts available. --Laura Molzahn
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Christian Altorfer.