The Swiss theater troupe Mummenschanz first weirded its way into the American conscience in 1974 with, appropriately enough, an appearance on The Muppet Show. The easily YouTube-able moment begins with none other than Kermit the Frog himself introducing the group as "kind of distant cousins to the Muppets" and remarking that "they are as hard to describe as to pronounce." True dat, Kermie! While Mummenschanz might not be as cuddly as Elmo, when a talking felt frog thinks you're odd, you've got something.
More than 35 years later, Mummenschanz is still capturing the increasingly elusive human attention span. One of the three founding members, Andres Bossard, passed away in 1992, but Floriana Frassetto and Bernie Schürch remain with the group. Currently, Mummenschanz are on tour performing a show titled 3x11, which is something of a career-spanning retrospective of their work. In case you missed something.
Part mime troupe, part live-action screen saver, Mummenschanz is, above all else, spectacle. Writhing, gyrating and flopping around on stage in elaborate puppet-ish contraptions with, for the most part, only the minimal noise of their movements audible to the audience, it’s safe to say this is an experience you’re not likely to get elsewhere. One “act” features a giant, curious, acrobatic slinky exploring the stage. Another, features dueling creatures with toilet paper-dispensing heads. Yet another, a large, round, green, hungry pacman-ish creature. Surreal, for sure. Almost creepy. Nah, “surreal” works.
If living in Humboldt County doesn’t already satisfy your personal surreal-ness quota, perhaps you be needin’ da Mummenschanz, no? Lucky for you, they’re bringin’ the weird to to Humboldt State University’s Van Duzer Theater this Monday, Nov. 30 with a kid-friendly 7 p.m. start time. Tickets are $45 for adults, $35 for children and seniors or $25 for HSU students. Again, a quick YouTube search should be all the enticing you’ll need. Be careful showing the kids. They’ll want to go. Guaranteed.
For more info, check out www.mummenschanz.com and/or www.humboldt.edu/centerarts.