On Saturday, April 6, 2019 the Segerstrom Center for the Arts shook with the reverberations of multiple percussion instruments, dancing, and vocals occurring within Currents by Mayumana which ended with the audience giving the company a well-deserved standing ovation. Although several of the ideas were reminiscent of musical groups STOMP and The Blue Man Group, Artistic Directors Geri Berman and Boaz Berman brought their own unique artistic voices to the genre.
Founded in 1996, Mayumana was established in Tel Aviv by Eylon Nuphar and Boaz Berman. The company’s name, Mayumana, comes from the Hebrew word for skill. Part of the production’s expertise involved the ten-member cast performing on everything but the kitchen sink. Metal tubes were shaped into a tall semi-circle that resembled organ pipes that were played using paddles. A clear plexiglass box half filled with water became a percussion instrument played using an ordinary round glass jar. Tall curbside trash cans, cardboard boxes, plastic buckets, diving flippers painted in fluorescent colors with the stage lit in black light. Even the floor and parts of the set came alive with a never-ending variety of rhythms. There were traditional drums, keyboards and guitars, but it was the use of the non-traditional instruments that heightened the fun factor.
The music by Ido Kagan, Eylon Nuphar, and Boaz Berman often had a Brazilian flavor, but it was as varied as the types of instruments. Five tall panels of different shapes and widths graced the background and throughout the evening the panels became alive with video mapping (Video Art by Visual Data VJ’s) of colorful floral designs, cosmos explorations, urban skyscrapers lit up at night, and an array of other dizzying designs that often felt like they were transporting one to a different universe a la Star Trek. On top of all that, the lighting by Roy “Junior” Milo added to the constant shifting of one’s visual pallet.
The performers appeared tireless and demonstrated an uncanny rhythmic control while continuously in motion. These amazing artists danced as they played the music as well performing to the music of the other musicians. Some had obviously had acrobatic training as they executed forward and backward flips, rolls, cartwheels, and hand stands. There was even a belly dancer who performed atop a narrow table, and a rhythmic interaction at a restaurant table between a server and his three patrons.
One of the highlights of Currents was Tal Levy playing a box, a trash can, two different guitars and an electric keyboard while being recorded by another performer carrying a small camera. It was a different and brilliant form of music sampling and the final product showed Levy dancing to her own musical score and vocals. Yes, this amazing artist revealed herself as a triple threat when she took a mic and sang the lyrics with a soulful and powerful voice. We are used to seeing performers such as Prince performing to their own music on television, MTV or You Tube, but rarely do we have the opportunity to watch the process. The Final visual was a closeup of Levy’s gorgeous face as the final chords from her 12-string, lead guitar faded away.
Before the coda section the cast guided the audience through a call and response section using rhythmic hand claps and Beatboxing, “a form of vocal percussion primarily involving the art of mimicking drum machines using one’s mouth, lips, tongue, and voice”.
As entertaining as Currents was to watch, listen to and, yes, take part in, there was the disconnect between what we saw and what was written in the program. “Currents is a spectacular show that was inspired by the historical Battle of Currents between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla in their quest for finding energy sources for the world.” The visuals were indeed spectacular and the electrical currents required to amplify the instruments, the floor and the set was complex to the electrical novice. Except for one scene, however, no apparent or obvious battle took place and that battle more aptly reflected a gang rumble or a scene from West Side Story.
The cast whose talents and energy were envious were Rotem Rachel Hirsh, Tal Levy, Omer Lavi, Saggie Gorfung, Adi Shalev, Ido Stadler, Sylvie Planche, Itamar Dari, Tayla Jade-Bedser, and May Alfi. The Sound Design was by Elad Berliner and Amir Schorr; Set & Prop Designs by Boaz Berman and Roy “Junior” Milo; and Costumes by Sharona Sharvit. The touring crew deserves mentioning here because the production values and the expert pacing of the show were inspiring. They were: Tour Manager, Shirly Vaknin; Light Operator, Nitai Doron; Sound Operator, Elad Berliner; Video Manager, Maxim Mordanev; Stage Manager, Benji Sultan; and Tour Equipment Provider, Morkol Sound & Light.
For information on Mayumana, click here.
For information about The Segerstrom Center for the Arts, click here.