March 5, 2008

Props (theater news and banter): ‘Leap’ into Le Fringe

Some of the highest profile names in American theater are in town this month for the Humana Fest, but we needn’t forget about the numerous artists who operate in Louisville year around. The members of the local company Le Petomane are among the region’s most creative and daring.“Leap: a physical comedy” is Le Petomane’s latest ensemble-created original. Rather than an indicator of plot, the title could point more directly toward the undeniable courage in producing such a play, perhaps demanding a “leap of faith” from everyone involved, including the audience.There is seldom certainty in the success of any experiment; never a guarantee that people will actually enjoy a theater’s promise of an “unrepeatable experience.” Artists are always taking leaps when they inject bold, new ideas into their work. “Leap” is theater for theater’s sake, movement for the sake of movement, perhaps more closely related to modern dance than traditional theater. The same thing happens in music when you take away its traditional structures and leave only the sound — it becomes an environment, an experiment in the fundamental qualities of musical perception. It’s like writing without grammar or painting without geometry. These aren’t necessarily new concepts, but neither are half of the selections from any given year at Humana.If you prefer something more akin to a Dada event or a Fluxus performance, then Le Petomane will be your best night out. For me, “Leap” could be the result of The Beach Boys song “Vegetables” presented as Cubist Theater — examining from every possible angle the experience of chomping down on your favorite vegetable. The lunacy quotient is high, but it’s also one of the troupe’s most compelling factors. Experimental theater has its challenges, so your patience, your intelligence and your tolerance will be tested, but it will also be rewarded.The four actors in this piece — resident performers Kristie Rolape, Tony Dingman, Abigail Bailey Maupin and Gregory Maupin — engage in a routine reminiscent of a children’s game, replete with imaginary characters playing in their own imaginary world. They each have good comic timing and exhibit incredible dexterity and endurance.The production continues March 7-8 and March 15-16 at the Rudyard Kipling. All shows begin at 8 p.m., and tickets are $8-$20. Go to www.lepetomane.org or call 636-1311 for more info. —Joey Yates