Illusions of shadow and light

The mask and mime troupe presents playful illusions at the Craterian
The name “Mummenschanz” comes from two German words, one means “masking” and the other means “chance” or “luck.”Photo courtesy of Marthinus Hatt

Colorful forms, fantastical characters, physical comedy and illusion make Mummenschanz an international sensation.

The Swiss performance troupe is celebrating 40 years of pantomime and puppetry. Formed in 1972 by Andres Bossard, Bernie Schurch and Floriana Frassetto, Mummenschanz has performed throughout South America, Africa, Europe, Australia, Asia and the United States, where it spent three years on Broadway (1977-79) and made guest appearances on "The Muppet Show" and "Northern Exposure."

If you go

Who: Mummenschanz

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29

Where: Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford

Tickets: $32, $35 and $38, or $23, $26 and $29 for ages 18 and younger

Call: 541-779-3000

The New York Times describes Mummenschanz as "witty madness ... dazzling and delightful."

As part of its international anniversary tour, the group, which now comprises Frassetto, Italian performers Pietro Montandon and Raffaella Mattioli, former Swiss actor Philipp Egli and Austrian technical director Jan Maria Lukas, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

The show will highlight 34 nonverbal theater sketches in which abstract forms and everyday objects, such as wires, tubes and boxes, move and interact on stage.

"It's amazing to see how that childlike, playful person in all of us seems to come out," Frassetto says.

The first part of the show features material from the '70s, including note-pad, clay and toilet-paper masks.

In the 1980s, Mummenschanz "went big" and began incorporating large, inflatable costumes and introduced "Slinky Man." More recent sketches feature members working outside costumes "as puppeteers would," Frassetto says.

With minimal lighting, the performers create a surreal atmosphere that toys with the audience's imagination.

"There's this frontier between shadow and light, so we can render the illusion as best as possible," Frassetto says. "The illusion is to ask yourself, 'How many people are there?' and (the) illusion is for you to imagine you see an owl and the person sitting next to you sees a snake."

Tickets cost $32, $35 and $38, or $23, $26 and $29 for ages 18 and younger, and are available at the Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., Medford, and or by calling 541-779-3000.

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