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Arts & Entertainment

Review: 'Human Identity'

From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 1
1/10/2014


By Ben Miles


Rebecca Robertson-Szwaja

Christopher Vened’s solo show, “Human Identity,” premiered this past December at Oregon’s COHO Theater, in Portland. Vened was a star player in Henryk Tomaszewski’s internationally acclaimed Wroclaw Pantomime Theater until his defection while on tour in West Germany in 1981, just subsequent to the declaration of Martial Law in his Polish homeland. Now “Human Identity” is making its So Cal debut at the Lounge Theatre, through February 9.

In an hour and-a-half, not including a one fifteen minute intermission, Vened – on a bare stage, in street clothes, and with no enhanced soundscape – attempts to explain to audience members the markers of human identity. He does this mainly by juxtaposing and contrasting the human species against other primates, birds, and reptiles. In doing so Vened smoothly incorporates his formidable skills as a mime, easily transitioning from a snake into an ape, a tree, and various bird types.

Vened’s fluidity, and with a bearing and countenance reminiscent of ballet great Mikhail Baryshnikov, is notable; at 61 years-old Vened’s physical flexibility and his ability to create corporal illusions are a reminder of his glory days as a pantomime artist. Vened also makes a vivid distinction between the male and female of our species. Underscoring the differences in how the two genders walk and run (men: heel-to-toe; women lead from the balls of their feet).

Nevertheless, Vened’s solo-show seems more like an academic exercise than a dramatic staging. Regardless of the obvious intelligence and thoughtfulness that Vened has infused into this show, it is not ready for presentation to paying audiences. As it is “Human Identity” is more an anthropological survey with a few performance flurries than a full-blown theatrical endeavor.

Still, to see this artist creative a multitude of images by simply contorting his body is a sight that is marvelous to witness, though the payoff is less than Vened may be aiming for. In an interview printed-out and included in the press materials, Vened indicates that he wants audiences to be “entertained” by “Human Identity.” He adds that he wants theatergoers to be “excited” by the ideas in the show.

Finally, he adds that he wants the ideas presented in “Human Identity” to be talked about by audiences “for many days to come. I hope to stir their minds.” To fully succeed with his goals for this show, Vened should first focus on job one: entertainment. Without that ingredient all else is at risk of being lost.

“Human Identity” continues at the Lounge Theatre through February 9. The Lounge is located at 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles. Show times are Sundays at 7 p.m. For reservations call (323)960-5773. For online ticketing, visit www.plays411.com/humanidentity.

ben@longbeachcomber.com