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Nothing To Hide

Elana Fishbein debuts post-modern clowning performance at Magnet Theater.


Elana Fishbein’s Magnet Theater show “Eleanor is Sibling-Challenged” is stretched a little bit to reach full length, with video and voice-over interludes, but does have a few moments of genuine hilarity, as she synthesizes post-modern clowning with good choices of music as a soundtrack and some subtle influences from other forms of comedy.

The beginning and end of the show make inspired use of two songs, “Everything to Everyone” by Everclear, and a Beatles’ “White Album” track. Performing the entire show in a red nose, but no other clown accoutrements other than props, Fishbein enters to the Everclear track, which accentuates jerky movements as she unfolds her child-like clown persona.

The conceit of the show as defined by the voice-overs between Fishbein’s pieces, is that Eleanor has been warped into a nerdy clown because her mother is going through a hysterectomy and she is sad she won’t ever have a sister. One doesn’t quite seem to follow the other in this premise but the tone of the voice-over is amusing by itself.

As a clowning piece, one segment where Fishbein demonstrates brushing her teeth, making a salad, then setting off a science fair volcano with the baking soda and vinegar she just used, seems heavily influenced by the Blue Man Group, and the naïve exploration of the world those characters do -- hence the “post-modern clowning” description.

Here the pieces aren’t always perfectly articulated -- a video segment where Elana plays in a bathtub but suddenly has a knife seems like a pop-culture nod to “Fatal Attraction,” and is also well-scored using a Radiohead track, but seems a little lacking in the underlying clowning logic.

The highlight of “Eleanor is Sibling-Challenged,” though, and justifiably the show closer, is introduced with a film of Eleanor away at camp, where she had earlier in the show packed up her belongings to send there, including a jar of sea monkeys. It’s the end of the summer, and she’s setting the sea monkeys free in a pond. Back live on stage, Fishbein portrays a sea monkey in a dance movement piece to the Beatles’ “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except for Me and My Monkey” making jerky movements that perfectly mirror the choppy, frenetic electric chords of the song.

If nothing else, “Eleanor is Sibling-Challenged” is a take on clowning not previously seen, infused with careful choices of music and pop culture references that add to the enjoyment of the overall show.

“Eleanor is Sibling Challenged” runs 7 p.m. Fridays, December 7, 14 and 21 at the Magnet Theater in New York. 
   

     

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