When the lights go up at Theatre Raymond Kabbaz for the French performance company Arcosm’s “Traverse,” lead Emilien Gobard is slumping in his recliner. He rises and repeats a seemingly uneventful daily routine again and again. He lives a ho-hum life, complacently lulled by its monotony. Yet his humdrum existence is the audience’s delight. His movements are graceful and precise; his body control impeccable. Gobard is a mime. Watching him do even the simplest acts is enjoyable. Surprisingly, there is also something amusing about the process of repetition when enacted poetically by a mime.
For the next hour, visitors pop in on Gobard unexpectedly: one beautiful woman who enters and exits, wrapped in a skin-tight dress, and two frenzied guys, who also come and go sporadically. They inject chaos into Gobard’s world, pushing him out of his comfort zone. It’s easy to lose yourself within Gobard’s disquieting journey, and feel the discomfort of the shove.
“Traverse” is also pure fun. Gushing with chaotic energy, it’s a whole lotta fussing with Gobard. Fortunately, you feel happy when he’s onstage. Anne-Cécile Chane-Tune is well-suited to be Gobard’s partner. She’s equipped with a keen sense of comedic timing, and her face expressions rival the demonstrative looks plastered on Gobard’s face, which rev up as his life gains momentum. A face expression is worth a thousand words. Especially when the odd couple is trying to speak to one other, but only abbreviated grunts eke out. It’s funny, although exaggerated, to watch them struggle to vocalize what they’re feeling, not wanting to say the wrong thing, scared to say anything at all — a metaphor for the tortuous game of attraction.
For most of the evening, the cast comprises an orchestra of everyday sounds and moves. It is the mission of the directors of Arcosm. Choreographer Thomas Guerry and composer Camille Rocailleux aim to build bridges between different artistic disciplines and languages. Rocailleux’s work is invigorating and playful. In one instance, the members belt out an opera of the single phrase “Oh my God.” It’s the only time actual words are spoken. The crew also bangs on tables and hits the cabinets and counters with cutlery — a symphony of the mundane.
Life tips into dream territory when Chane-Tune steps out of the shower in a bathing suit encircled with wet cloth. Running from her toes to Gobard, again sitting in his recliner, is a slippery slide. Chane-Tune glides back and forth, knees bent in front and back, rolling, tumbling and splitting. She glows with flexibility and strength.
The final scene flips to a dance concert. Guerry frees the dancers from character motivation and creates a more traditional ensemble piece. After growing accustomed to their kooky behavior and eccentric movement, this section feels ordinary. Watching the dancers maneuver within the limitations of their characters and space is the more interesting show.
—Jessica Koslow, Culture Spot LA
Arcosm performed at Theatre Raymond Kabbaz on Feb. 1. For information about upcoming events, visit http://www.theatreraymondkabbaz.com/.