There hasn't been a clown
Act like "Stanley Allan Sherman's Aero Show Featuring the Star-Spangled
Banner" (at the Richmond Shepard Theatre) since Bill Irwin Rolled
into town with his "Regard of Flight" a few seasons back.
It's the same sort of thing,
only different, where Irwin based his routines on the sawdust-and-tinsel
traditions of the American circus, Sherman's are more closely derived
from the commedia dell'arte style of European comic theatre.
The results are nothing
short of magical. In appearance, the lanky, bearded Sherman bears a
striking resemblance to his sometime partner Avner Eisenberg (currently
holy man in "The Jewel of the Nile"). The resemblance goes
beyond mere physicality: the two studied together at the Ecole Jacque
Lecoq in Paris and frequently share material. But the "Aero Show"
is decidedly one-of-a-kind.
There are no sets. Sherman
enters the house from the rear, a sad-faced fool so slow on the take
at first that it take him a second entrance to even acknowledge the
audience. The show builds slowly, with an almost Chaplin-esque sense
of comic construction as Sherman begins to examine the contents of a
mysterious (and seemingly bottomless) paper bag that entices him from
one corner of the stage.
Quite literally, it's all
in the bag. Inside are carefully tooled leather masks (Sherman himself
was the artist) used to illustrate a gallery of characters, among them
a wheezing smoker desperate for a cigarette and a whip-wielding clown
killer. This could well be the most populated one-man show ever.
But it's what's not in the
bag that unlocks the secret of Sherman's artistry and makes the show
so delightfully spellbinding. Sherman has the rare ability to breathe
life into inanimate, even imaginary objects, wrestling with a recalcitrant
coat when it fails to stay on an imaginary hanger and then administering
CPR when it "expires."
You can't even see some
of the funniest bits-but you think you can. Audience participation is
an important factor here. Sherman doesn't so much play to the house
as with it, and it's hard to imagine a more engaging playmate. Again
and again Sherman dissolves the traditional barrier between performer
and viewer with a good-natured, childlike innocence that's difficult
to dislike. He isn't just a performer-he make us his friends, as well.
It all leads to the show's
climactic set-piece, an irreverent salute to armed forces battle hymns
that finds Sherman pulling paper soldiers out of the bag to the tune
of "The Caissons Go Rolling Along, dousing himself with cups of
water during a rendition of "Anchors Aweigh" and sending paper
planes-equipped with parachutes no less-sailing into the house for the
tribute to the Air Force.
The routine culminates in
a truly explosive, on-your-feet version of the national anthem to which
Sherman provides accompanying special effects. Ramparts gleam rockets
glare, talcum-powder bombs burst and red-white-and-blue toilet-paper
streamers fill the house. Rambo might object, but for the rest of us
it's likely to prove the perfect finale to an already in-flight "Aero
The Columbus Dispatch
Saturday July 9 1988
go see this clown
Whimsy and serendipity are Stanley Allan Sherman's Trademarks.
His "Aero Show" which opened last night for a three-day run
at Ohio State University, makes much of little.
Sherman flies paper airplanes,
dances with a peacock feather, tries on masks and juggles toilet paper
rolls. For Sherman, even something as simple as walking on-stage can
be a rich source of extended entertainment.
Sherman's clowning and miming
hilariously blend existentialism and patriotism, commedia dell'arte
and performance art.
Simple but subtle, he captures
a child's innocent, inquisitive spirit. Like a 6-year old, he blossoms
under the sunshine of attention. Then more the audience responds, the
more he gives.
Parents, take your kid!
If you don't have any, that's no excuse. Borrow a few. Anyone who doesn't
grab the whole family to see this weirdly wonderful fellow deserves
to be arrested for criminal negligence. His show is that special.
variety act also launches OSU's month long Clown/Mime Festival. Other
public performances include puppet shows (July 17), Luftkugle Lecture
with J. Edmond Daly's Bharata Natyam dance (July 15-16), Avner the eccentric
(July 22) and more.
Sherman's zippy performance
raises high expectations. The rest of the Festival is going to have
to be darned good to live up to them.