BILLY THE MIME at THE SACRED FOOLS THEATER
Review by Mark Share – EYE SPY
American culture hasnít been kind to mimes. Billy the Mime returns the favor. Not content with feeling the walls of an invisible cell or climbing an invisible ladder, and beyond miming on the street for change, Billy performs in the theater and portrays human trauma for laughs. Consider the comedy of the routine called “The Abortion”, with Billy in classic mime black bodysuit and whited-out face, portraying a pregnant woman, her doctor, and the struggling fetus who ends the scene in a garbage can. The audience laughed and laughed.
Why is that funny at all? Well, partly there’s the dissonance of a gentle mime portraying such awful events. Minnie Mouse or Barbie having an abortion would also create dark comedy. Partly some awfulness needs to be mocked, as Charlie Chaplin claimed when he portrayed Hitler in The Great Dictator (although that film was made in relative innocence before the war even started).
Billy himself mimics Hitler rising from painter to fascist in the routine World War II. This routine showcases Billyís acute judgment in selecting just the right shared cultural references for his routines. Besides Hitler, thereís Anne Frank writing in her diary (Billy finally gets to climb an invisible staircase to her loft), a Hula dancer getting gunned down by a plane in Pearl Harbor, and an American pilot dropping the Bomb on Japan. Billy can even do a mushroom cloud. In JFK, Jr. We Hardly Knew Ye, Billy includes the boy saluting at his father’s funeral, the young man sleeping around, the three attempts at the Bar Exam, the marriage, and the fatal flight, including opening the door for his disliked sister-in-law, and then, in parody, trying to read the flight manual. In Thomas & Sally: A Night at Monticello, Billy cleverly details Thomas Jefferson having to open the arch of buttons popular on trousers of the time, as he prepares for sex with his slave.
By the way, the show’s not appropriate for children.
As a mime, Billy has all the skills down. He brings impressive artistry and even sensitivity to his dark materials. He also takes himself seriously, esoterically noting in the program that he is NOT to be confused with Billi the Mime, and claiming credit for having “dreamed, conceived, and written” the routines. Billy puts on tamer shows, at least I assume so as the program notes
mention his school performances. But his heart belongs to the inappropriate side, as can be seen in his filmed performance in The Aristocrats. The audience embraced Billy and his evening of outrÈ humor, and Billy reciprocated.
Sacred Fools Theatre 660 N. Heliotrope, Hollywood.
– Mark Share (firstname.lastname@example.org)