Ennio, the One-Man All-Star Living Cartoon

The Austin debut of Italian performer Ennio Marchetto was something of a disappointment, but his energetic display did provide 70 minutes of mindless fun

Arts Review

Ennio, the One-Man All-Star Living Cartoon

B. Iden Payne Theatre

Sept. 6

When someone drops names like Pina Bausch as an influence and can boast of a 1999 Drama Desk nomination, it engenders a certain expectation. Yet for all the joviality that the Italian performer Ennio Marchetto brought to the B. Iden Payne Theatre last week, the performance was something of a disappointment. To be fair, I must report that the small but appreciative audience who saw Ennio on his opening night in Austin was ecstatic. Maybe it was because I passed on the wine that many around me seemed to be nursing, but the show I saw, though amusing, was no more than a drag show with flat paper costumes (Ennio is the "doll" clad in black leotard that he "dresses" as various characters). But at least a drag show has a sense of pageantry. Ennio's performance was a parade of mostly U.S. pop stars with him lip-synching to their recordings while moving about the stage inelegantly, due to the restrictions of his paper cutouts.

Large and colorful, Ennio's costume cutouts used clever folding and pop-up book techniques that enabled him to switch quickly from one character to the next before the audience. Seeing him change from Diana Ross and the Supremes into the multilimbed Shiva was fun, as was watching him change from Madonna into the Singing Nun, flipping Madonna's hourglass torso so it became the Singing Nun's guitar, Madonna's 'do into the Singing Nun's familiar wimple. Yet the gimmick was ultimately limited. Characters occurred in pairs. Character-defining music changed abruptly once the new character was revealed. Punctuated by blackouts, the presentation style became repetitive after the first 20 minutes.

The highlights of Ennio's show for this reviewer were the non-pop-star icons. There was something magical in seeing the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo brought into goofy relief, thanks to Ennio's droll interpretations. Just what would the Venus de Milo's reaction be when she discovered she was nude with no means to cover herself? Ennio's imagining of this was delightful.

From a cursory discussion with audience members after the show, it was clear that part of the enjoyment came from trying to guess what character would morph into the next. Maybe the wine also played a part. But the larger truth is that laughter is in high demand these days. Ennio's energetic performance provided 70 minutes of mindless fun and a welcome respite from the worries of an injured world.

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