January 15, 2006.By Graydon Royce, Star Tribune.
Theater Review: With “Knock!” Jim Lichtscheidl creates a new way to enjoy the innocent fun of childhood with a fey wit. Bring the kids.
Now for something completely silly – and clever, and witty, and innovative, and, well, you get the picture. For those who saw Jim Lichtscheidl’s “Knock!” at the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival, you know what this is about. To you, I say, this expanded version is worth revisiting. To the rest of you, see it for the first time. It won’t be the last.
Lichtscheidl’s show, which opened Friday in a Theater Latté Da production at the Loring Playhouse, mixes video, rudimentary animation, live movement and music – always music – to articulate the foibles of family and the everyday adventures of a 12-year-old-boy. The only words spoken in the 75-minute show are a handful of “knock knock” jokes. Any other spare dialogue comes in word bubbles projected on a screen – a human cartoon, as it were – and those are rare.
Lichtscheidl creates what he calls “storieographies.” The best approximations might be the work of TV comic Ernie Kovacs, who matched pantomime to music, or Jerry Lewis (really funny Jerry, not sad, bitter Jerry). Working with director Peter Rothstein, Lichtscheidl has plumbed his childhood for simple memories, then extruded them through imagination and exaggeration.
So we have a trip to the dentist’s office fashioned through the prism of The Doors’ doom-laden “The End.” Two friends work their video game joysticks to the rhythms of Hot Butter’s ‘70s synth hit “popcorn.” Aaron Copland animates the frantic face-stuffing of dinner time.
There is so much more. Trips to the toy store, simple rides to amusement parks in the family car, sleepovers, games in which older siblings get fed up and throw the board on the floor.
“If you don’t tell mom I gave you a concussion, I’ll let you hang out with us,” says on word bubble directed at big sister. What kid could turn down that offer? And it’s all done with such precise, exacting movement and emotional detail. When you contrast those arch elements with the childish crayon drawings that provide video backdrops, you begin to appreciate the delicious irony of innocence and cheeky adult wit. Lighting designer Jennifer DeGolier and production manager Justin Hossle enhance every accent in Rothsteins’ production.
Lichtscheidl’s onstage conspirators are exceptional. Eriq Nelson plays the dad and best friend Perry. Ken Rosen straps on a bobbed wig and becomes big sister. Lisa Spreeman, who in real life was that big sister, plays mom. Michelle Hutchison pops in for guest spots. They get the attitude, the intent of the form, the whole deal. It’s a terrific ensemble.
I really cannot say enough good things about this show. See it.