Theater archives

Leo: Skew You!


Leo is kind of a one-trick show—but it’s a pretty enjoyable trick, and performer Tobias Wegner and director Daniel Brière get the most they can out of it. This perspective-bending piece of solo physical theater—a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, now playing at the Clurman on Theatre Row—uses high-tech gadgetry and lo-fi theatrical sleight-of-hand to achieve the old-fashioned aim of astounding an audience with improbable feats.

The trickery in question involves a tilted video feed that rotates the onstage action 90 degrees. The skewed images get projected onto a large screen alongside the little box set, daubed in primary colors, where Wegner does his extraordinary physical stunts. Sideways becomes right-side up (or upside-down); vertical turns horizontal. And the results of this optical illusion are quite uncanny—when Wegner’s lying down, his projected doppelganger leans casually against the wall. If he shimmies along the floor, his double appears to float upwards, zero-g style. (It helps that Wegner is a masterful body-actor and gymnast, capable of making real-world handstands look like nonchalant lounging for the camera). And, if he dances, leaps, or rolls, it’s as though he’s getting jiggy on the international space station.

Leo rings all kinds of eye-trumping changes on this visual fakery: Onscreen, Wegner sticks to walls like Spiderman; sends his hat spinning at impossible angles; hovers serenely like a cartoon yogi; breakdances down the walls; dangles bat-ish from the ceiling. Once the basics are exhausted, a little CGI provides new opportunities: The room fills with cartoon water to become a submarine fantasia; chalk doodles on the wall quiver to life; digital fiddling creates afterimages of Wegner as he jumps and somersaults around—dancing with ghosts. (There isn’t much plot here, and no language: Wegner somehow finds himself in the gravity-challenged room, goofs around some, has a nap, and then slips out through his suitcase.)

Of course, our eyes flip images all the time to make them legible to our brains—Leo subtly reminds us that optical acrobatics lie behind everything we see. And it’s rather pleasurable to have the visual contract knocked awry for an hour or so. (Aware of its limits, the piece tactfully ends just as it begins to wear thin.) It’s unusual to hear so many child-like gasps of sheer delighted astonishment in a theater. Leo is a theatrical confection, light and sweet—a little eye candy for the jaded gaze.

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