How do I put this delicately? It takes a helluva man to enjoy a clown.
A clown may appeal to the inner child, but the outer adult craves a searing Mamet play or somesuch, followed by a dry martini and a good cigar. And let’s raise the stakes some more before we see the veteran clown Yanomi, now appearing as Miss Hiccup. It is a one-actor show, to start with. And though Yanomi is not exactly a mime, she utters only six intelligible words throughout; the remainder of her speech is mere lyric sounds – lah lah lah and mah mah mah. Oh – and she has the hiccups.
So I would love to report that all my expectations and prejudices were exploded, and that Yanomi led us into a new theatrical dimension. Alas, it was not to be. It is entirely conventional. Yanomi scuttles onstage like a crab, head bedecked in a bouquet of flowers, in whiteface, with lips painted by enormous strokes of fire-engine red, a color matched by her gloves and her glossy Mary Janes. She wears enormous glasses and long lashes, and a threadbare yellow dress with bloomers underneath. The effect, you sense, is designed to make her seem ridiculous, but somehow it doesn’t; she seems pleasantly eccentric, like someone you knew in college.
She then goes through the daily routine of Miss Hiccup – morning calisthenics, the brushing of teeth, the shushing of a baby, and so on. She does this all to a soundtrack; her movements are a little exaggerated, but not much. At one point she squats on an imaginary toilet and sings an aria, pretending to sight-read from a roll of toilet paper (she has a beautiful voice). She does other stuff like that – the quotidian events in the life of the somewhat eccentric Miss Hiccup.
There are some aspects to the routine which are fresh and clever. At one point, she takes off the Mary Janes and puts on some house slippers, which inexplicably squeak when she walks. She sticks some eyes on her right slipper, and then cradles her right foot in her lap, cooing to it as if it were a baby. That was fun. She also does some things which I found completely incomprehensible.
Look, I know that there are refined people who like this sort of stuff; she has toured the world and won enthusiastic audiences. I’m just not one of them. Neither, judging from the polite laughter from the sparse crowd at the show I saw, was anyone else in the audience.
At the show’s end, Yanomi gives a nice speech in which she urges us to see Fringe shows done by other artists she admires, and then thanks us for the support Americans gave during the recent tragedy in Japan. She seems like a good person. If I was a better person, I might have enjoyed her show more. But like Popeye the Sailor, I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam. So I give it a 2.
A Day in the Life of Miss Hiccup has 6 performances between July 12 and 21 at Mt Vernon United Methodist Church 900 Massachusetts Ave NW DC.
Details and tickets