Theater Review: Stomp -- How to turn a nervous habit into artBy Vladimir V. Zelevinsky
First, a warning: if you don't like percussive music and/or modern dance, you can save yourself time and money by skipping both this review and the performance of Stomp. It's definitely not your can of soda. For the rest of us, though, for the people who drum fingers on tables, rap knuckles on walls, tap feet with the beat of a song on radio, and find it hard to get rid of a particularly catchy tune once it's in your head, Stomp provides two hours of solid (albeit pricey) entertainment.
It's hard to categorize Stomp. It inhabits the border area between performance art, percussion music ensemble, modern dance troupe, and visual comedy (the weakest component).
The show starts with a janitor on stage with a broom. Gradually his sweeps acquire rhythm, and the sounds start to vary: there's a sound of a sweep, another of a broom hitting the floor squarely, another when it raps the floor sideways, and another when it's dropped. From these four notes, the lone performer weaves what can be loosely termed a melody, and then more people come on the stage, each with a broom, each joining in, creating more and more complicated rhythms and playing off each other to create music. And the word "music" certainly applies. Despite the fact that all we hear are various noises, they're timed precisely. The performer's movements are choreographed with equal care.
All in all, there are twelve performers, and they surely work up a sweat, performing for almost two hours without an intermission. After the initial broom segment, they use almost every other household item that makes a sound, including, but not limited to: matchboxes, sand, wooden poles, buckets, newspapers, cast iron kitchen sinks, spatulas, oil drums, newspapers, trash bags, tea chests, paper cups, garbage cans, etc. The performers, in alphabetical order, bang, clap, crash, hit, kick, knock, punch, rap, slam, smack, strike, and mercilessly whack the objects ("mercilessly" is the word; according to the Stomp people, they use up to twenty brooms a week). All of the segments are fun; some are unexpectedly touching, like the mysterious atmospheric sounds of the rubber pipes hitting the floor, and especially the fugue on eight Zippo lighters, performed in total darkness, with the flickers of flame providing a visual counterpoint to the clicking sounds. In the end, the whole set becomes a music instrument, with the tin pails, plastic buckets, traffic signs, etc., being hit with abandon.
For two hours of what amounts to hitting various objects, Stomp is surprisingly varied (although using the brooms in three different music pieces feels like too much of a good thing). Admittedly, the price of admission is a bit high (the cheapest ticket you can get will set you back around $30), but if you like weird music and dance, you will not see anything like this anywhere else.