Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The M.U.T.E.S.

By Russ Bickerstaff
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I found myself looking at entries for the next Milwaukee Comedy Festival last night at the home of founder Matt Kemple. I was there with Kemple, a few local comedy types, a dog named Shakespeare and a black cat going through a box of DVD submissions. Somewhere in the midst of an evening of sketch after sketch punctuated by flurries of activity by Shakespeare, I was reminded of a highly novel local act that just started up.



I first ran into the  M.U.T.E.S on Myspace, oddly enough . . . The concept is really interesting and I’m told that the people behind M.U.T.E.S. have done extensive research and found no dedicated act anywhere doing exclusively what they’re doing . . .

The name stands for the Marvelous Unspeaking Troupe of Entertaining Scoundrels. They do live performances of old silent film-era comedy visual comedy. The three actors in question are Alice Wilson and . . . two guys whose names aren’t listed on the profile either . . . (sorry . . .)  . . . and having seen the video sampler of an audition outside of the UWM Union Cinema was really interesting. It’s easy enough to sort of glaze over watching people doing something that looks vaguely like the earlier work of Charlie Chaplin, but seeing it live is everything here . . . imagine hearing that distinctive flickering sound effect going off somewhere in the background and sepia-like lights going up a bit, fading in and out with that vague and almost perceptible strobe of early film. Out walk two actors and one actress in white face dressed in black period costume. Every now and then an actor walks out to present a card of text. They’re all moving around precisely the way one would expect in an old silent film. The real novelty here is seeing the distinct feel of flat, recorded 2D film from the dawn of cinema re-created in live, contemporary 3D. This sort of thing would be particularly interesting on smaller stages.

The group most recently performed at Pridefest. Interested parties should check their website for further dates. 


I guess the biggest surprise I had last night in the process of watching all those entries was the fact that I wasn’t allergic to Shakespeare. I’m very, very allergic to dogs, but for some reason all I got around Shakespeare was a slightly stuffy nose. (They call him Shakes for short, which he certainly does a lot of.) I was hoping to use this as some sort of segue into blogs for the next couple of days regarding what is turning out to be an unusually big summer for Shakespeare in Wisconsin . .  . and I think I just did in a way . . .

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