Heroic Clowning Around

Joan of Arppo is a masterful and delightful one-women clown show that should not be missed. Gardi Hutter, a known entity in her native Switzerland, is a virtuosic storyteller. Outfitted in a sloppy layering of mismatched clothes and the requisite red rubber nose, she engages, amazes, entertains and charms. Ms. Hutter’s imagination abounds and - without speaking a word - she communicates her story and offers up an experience of playful ambition. Joan of Arppo will renew your belief in magic as you giggle all the way home. Joan is a laundry woman who excitedly reads Joan of Arc and Other Heroines and dreams of fighting great battles. She reenacts these battles using the items of her laundry room – a pile of dirty clothes, washboard, clothing line, clothes pins, etc. Joan wins some battles, loses others and, in the end, meets the fate of her idol. Joan’s childlike enthusiasm is magnetic as she draws you into her laundry room/playground. She creates a rich world where objects take on multiple meanings for comedic and/or poignant effect. She teases the audience at moments, pretending to be bashful and at other moments she poses for a photographer, beaming with pride.

The story is incredibly simple and the allure of this production is watching it unfold before you. Ms Hutter’s expertise in clowning is demonstrated consistently throughout the piece. At one point, she dances with the clothesline and it is clear that she has investigated every possible way of interacting with the line and presented us the gems of her research. There are many moments where she directly solicits reactions from the audience, which, in a show like this, only works because we are with her every step of the way. The staged battle scenes vary in scale from fingers fighting fingers to setting up the pile of laundry as a life-sized opponent for her to conquer. Co-creators Ms. Hutter and Mr. Ferruccio Cainero are a skillful artistic duo that presents a carefully conceived and precisely executed production.

This hour-long show goes by in a flash. You will sit on the edge of your seat, gasp at beautiful transformations made before your eyes and experience chuckles that transform into full-blown belly laughs as you give in to Ms. Hutter’s conceits and root for our heroine’s success.

Note: This production is part of the 2007 NYC International Fringe Festival.

Click for print friendly PDF version of this blog post