“Stomp” returned to Los Angeles Wednesday night with a new American cast and the expected array of plonks, pats, smacks, bangs, clings, bops, whisks and taps. The wordless dance-and-drumming routine left proof positive that Yanks can keep time just as well as their Brit counterparts.
For those cave dwellers who haven’t heard of it, “Stomp” is a group of eight ragtag types who take the stage with an array of “percussion” instruments. Not your garden-variety instruments, but tin cans, lighters, rubber hoses, sticks, poles, barrels, sinks, brooms and virtually anything that can pound out or be pounded on for a beat.
Last October, when I reviewed the British cast (also at the Wadsworth), I said my personal favorite was the rubber hose symphony, with its array of melodic plonks. That one is still a hoot, with the cast creeping around the stage, eyeing each other warily, while they pound out Philip Glass-like sounds with menacing long black tubes.
But four men with huge, water-filled kitchen sinks hanging from their necks have displaced the hoses. The men grate, pound and shuffle their yellow rubber-gloved hands against these industrial-strength sinks, splashing water all over the stage. As with most of the evening’s dance bits, they leerily compete to see who can create the most original flutters, tings and clangs. At the close , they all stand over four buckets and let the water drain from their pipes. What do you suppose we’re seeing there?
The only negative to this band of janitors was a seeming one-dimensionality. With the British, all eight performers exuded a clear individuality, giving the pieces levels to explore beyond the rhythm. Now, even though humor is still there, the entire cast generally emits the same glum, angry despair that smacks of New York’s Lower East Side, where the show made its U.S. debut. Another facial expression would have been nice.
Still, the piece is 90 minutes of eminently watchable entertainment. “Stomp” is here for another six weeks. If you’ve ever tapped your fingers on a table while waiting for someone to show up, dance your way to UCLA. You’ll love this show.