Friday, May 18, 2007

Edith Tankus at the MAT

About three minutes into "Not Yet, At All," Francis - the main character in Edith Tankus' one-woman show at the Manitou Art Theater, tells the audience, "Don't make eye contact - you might fall in love with me."

The warning came just in time. I was already half-smitten with the winsome, irresistibly positive girl who we meet daydreaming in a math class at a school for wayward girls.

Soon after, Francis runs away from school, joins a circus, and becomes Francesa.

"Not Yet, At All" is a fabulous showcase for Tankus' myriad skills. These includes character acting - both vocal and physical - ranging from Miss Margaret the sadistic nun, to Lester the cynical carnival barker, to Eva, "the exotic Russian showgirl, past her prime, existing in a cloud of her own perfume." (One of my favorite gags was Eva's pronunciation of "teeth.") There's a beautiful song, in which she plays the ukulele and sings with lovely, soft voice. And to top it off, there's a trapeze scene.

(The knee-jerk thought is that Tankus developed a scenario that would show off everything she could do, but in fact it's the other way around: She developed the scenario in order to give herself an excuse to learn the trapeze.)

The major flaw is an unfinished feeling - we're not quite sure how Francis gets from the penultimate scene to the finale, or whether, given Francis' tendency towards self-aggrandizing exaggeration, she gets there at all other than in her mind. But with such a brilliant performance, this becomes a minor quibble.

If, like me, you missed "Not Yet, At All" when it appeared at the Manitou Art Theater in 2002, tonight - Saturday, May 19th - is your chance to atone. Call the MAT at 685-4729 for more information.


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