Imagine eight janitors trapped in a basement bored out of their skulls. Toss in that they're mute and only express themselves through primordial rhythmic banging on cans, cups, boxes, brooms, lighters, rubber hoses, sinks, hubcaps, barrels, anything in reach. Then put them onstage.

Imagine eight janitors trapped in a basement bored out of their skulls. Toss in that they’re mute and only express themselves through primordial rhythmic banging on cans, cups, boxes, brooms, lighters, rubber hoses, sinks, hubcaps, barrels, anything in reach. Then put them onstage.

Sounds like grade-A theater, especially for someone with a headache.

Fact is, Stomp is fascinating theater. With what amounts to Rube Goldberg variations on a drumbeat, the British import that’s been Off Broadway for the last six months entertains, amuses and astounds in virtuosic rapid-fire deliveries of jabs, beats, slams, taps, tosses, flicks, clicks, claps and pops, defying believability in the beats they create on the most unlikely of materials. A symphony of matchboxes?

Typically, the rhythmic sketches start with one man (or woman) and one simple beat.

As his rhythms get more complicated, others join the fray, tapping, pounding and lighting in polyrhythmic combos that grow defiantly complex — especially considering there appears to be no conductor keeping the eight sanitation engineers in sync.

Leave out the sound and the pieces still proffer an erudite use of traditional dance styles — tap, flamenco, Capoeira, sand dancing, Merce Cunningham and even Fred Astaire.

Luke Cresswell, who choreographed with Steve Nicholas, appears the leader of the ragtag brood. He opens the show pushing a lonely industrial-strength broom on an empty floor. The sound of the bristles intrigue him and he explores their possibilities. Soon, he’s joined by another and another and another until the stage is filled with manic sweepers, boinking and whisking like an automated contraption.

Personal favorite had to be the group’s use of rubber hoses. Each was cut to a different pitch, allowing not only for rhythmic plonks against the stage, but for eight-tone scale sounds that actually produced a scatterbrained melody.

Stomp is an extraordinary concoction so complicated that you’re left wondering how it ever could have been created. Don’t bother to figure it out. Just go.

Stomp

Veteran Wadsworth Theater, Los Angeles; 600 seats; $35 top

Production

A UCLA Center for the Performing Arts production of a one-act show as part of U.K./L.A. '94 festival; exec producers, Richard Frankel Prods. and Marc Routh; created and directed by Luke Cresswell, Steve Nicholas.

Creative

Lighting, Nicholas and Neil Tiplady; Opened, reviewed Sept. 30, 1994; runs through Oct. 23. Running time: 90 min.

Cast

Cast: Luke Cresswell, Nick Dwyer, Sarah Eddy, Theseus Gerard, Fraser Morrison , David Olrod, Carl Smith, Fiona Wilkes.
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