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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Flea Theater

By Robert Cashill

  Billy the Mime/Ph: Joan Marcus

Billy the Mime is the Charles Bronson of mimes, a Schwarzenegger of silence who shocks his audiences deaf, dumb and blind with his politically charged, over-the-cliff routines. Hate mimes? So does Billy, who studied under Marcel Marceau and picked up circus skills at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey's Clown College, and is out to rescue a form that audiences, fed up with the irritating no-talent street performers, have abandoned. Billy beat all the gagsters to the punchline with his side-splitting performance of the world's dirtiest joke in the 2005 film The Aristocrats. In America LoveSexDeath, he hooks mime up to a defibrillator and jolts it back to consciousness.

In the show, Billy picks from an assortment of about 40 routines, including the one from the movie. The titles alone are enough to raise an eyebrow: Judy: Over the Rainbow, Jon Benet Ramsey: 1990-1996, and Virginia Tech 4-16-07, were among the ones I didn't see, and if you're already riled up about the potential hamburger made from these sacred cows you'd best brush off this Flea production. Steel yourself for what Billy did serve up. The sharpest, funniest bit was Terry Schiavo, Adieu, which had upset family members, manipulated by politicians on opposing ends of the spectrum, pulling plugs in and out of the grinning, childlike invalid. In Thomas & Sally: A Night at Monticello, our third president, bored with recitals at his home, sneaks off for a graphically suggested roll in the hay with his slave. A Night with Jeffrey Dahmer needs no explanation, as the serial killer dismembers and devours one of his victims with Grand Guignol gusto, Billy's superbly mimicked implements hacking the air.

Laughs aren't all that's on Billy's plate. Christopher Reeves, A Super Man, where the respirator-bound actor relives his Man of Steel adventures on film and on horseback before his tragic spill, is weirdly poignant. The Priest and the Altar Boy is a cutting commentary on Catholic Church silence in the face of abuse scandals. My performance concluded with an uptempo audience participation bit that sent Billy to his grave, where I think a significant portion of the uncomfortably still patrons were also ready to send him after a string of close-to-the-bone episodes like The Abortion, 1963, and A Day Called 9/11, featuring a suicide hijacker. Billy, who sometimes does not go far enough in spelling out what he's miming (which makes more epic skits like World War ll and The Sixties confusing), had finally gone too far. But America LoveSexDeath succeeds in making the audience fall silent, and finding danger in Billy the Mime's quiet riot.





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