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beep boop

A deft combination of mime, music, audio-visual effects.

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Richard Saudek in “beep boop” at HERE (Photo credit: John Behlmann)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

beep boop, Richard Saudek’s hour-long sad-sack romp through modern man’s constant love/hate bout with technology, is at HERE, the avant-garde arts center in SoHo. Its deft combination of mime, music, audio-visual effects and—yes—modern technology is worth a visit to this very active performance space, if for nothing else than to see Saudek disappear into his laptop.

On a darkened stage which only contains what looks like an island kitchen counter, eerie sounds (designed by foley artist Brendan Aanes and produced by a skillful and witty Nora Kaye) precede what looks like the birth of the schlumpy, bent over, but agile figure portrayed by Saudek. He emerges, all in grey (a simple, but telling costume by Maddie Peterson) to find himself besieged by cell phones, notebooks, laptops and other contraptions that go “beep boop.”

We follow this everyman in a walk through the city in which he is attacked by a dog, rides a subway, takes selfies and even tramps through the seated audience, totally oblivious to his surroundings due to his involvement in his devices. Saudek’s agile movements spring as if from nowhere. No one could expect such a loose limbed shuffler to have that kind of a spring in his step, nor be able to leap atop the counter piece.

Richard Saudek in “beep boop” at HERE (Photo credit: John Behlmann)

He opens a mysterious box only to find more devices and begins some miraculously timed submersions into computer screens, which he makes both clever and pathetic, all the while keeping up a gentle persona.

Although Saudek claims inspiration from silent film era masters, he, in his white face and exaggerated walk, appears to perform more in the tradition of Marcel Marceau, the classic French mime whose character, Bip, shifted from whimsy to tragedy with breathtaking deftness.

Saudek possesses this same head-to-toe control of his physical equipment and is perfectly willing to become both the fool and the tragic figure, using every part of his body even, at one point his tongue. He resuscitates a dead phone in a particularly droll bit, and even flings himself into a cartwheel.

Richard Saudek in “beep boop” at HERE (Photo credit: John Behlmann)

Too much goes on in this intense, but entertaining microcosmic look at a character on the edge to describe here, but this rich combination of mime, acting, movement, projections and lighting (the latter two designed by Driscoll Otto) fills the hour to the brim and ends in a moving fadeout.

The sound score includes natural sounds, electronic sounds, ringing phones, infomercials and music that ranges from Sousa to Tchaikovsky. The music was composed and assembled by Jesse Novak, a rising young music maker.

Wes Grantom directs with what appears to be a light hand, shaping the show and keeping Saudek rhythmic impulses going.

beep boop, it should be noted, is suitable for children for whom it would be a break from TV and computer screens.

beep boop (extended though October 7, 2018)

HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue, in Manhattan

For tickets: call 212-352-3101 or visit http://www.tickets@here.org

Running time: 60 minute without an intermission

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Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (286 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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