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Monday, February 28, 2011

Hobo Grunt Cycle at Exit Theater Leaves Viewers Haunted but also Frustrated

Posted By on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Hobo Grunt Cycle - CONNOR AUGUSTINE
  • Connor Augustine
  • Hobo Grunt Cycle

If you're prone to nightmares about clowns, you might want to consider other entertainment options. Hobo Grunt Cycle, an oddly transfixing performance piece by New York-based puppetmaker Kevin Augustine, conflates the history of clowning with the history of war, with some dog-on-dog violence thrown in to keep you on edge. The result is both haunting and frustrating in roughly equal measure.

Clown. Scary. - CONNOR AUGUSTINE
  • Connor Augustine
  • Clown. Scary.
Augustine stars as a tramp clown who befriends a circus-trained pit bull named Hobo. The dog is one of several giant puppets brought to life by Augustine and his collaborators at Lone Wolf Tribe; Hobo is not only life-size but life-like, and he's heartbreaking in his eagerness and innocence.

If this were simply a play about the relationship between a man and his pup, we might've had a fine little parable on our hands. But Augustine wants to make a larger point about the horrors of war, and he's not subtle about it. In the play's least effective moments, it's a preachy, somewhat simplistic critique of the human tendency toward armed conflict.

Even so, Hobo Grunt Cycle is worth watching, in part because Augustine nails the quiet moments shared by clown and dog. He also creates a few bold, gorgeously inventive sequences, all of them underscored by Clint Davis' soundtrack and the hypnotic sound design of Aldo Perez and Miguel Weissman.

Augustine has time to fix the show's problems before scheduled runs in New York and Philadelphia. But as it currently stands, Hobo Grunt Cycle is an admirable muddle.

Hobo Grunt Cycle continues through March 5 at EXIT Theatre. Admission is $15-$25.

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Chris Jensen

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