If Pixar choreographed a live-action danse macabre
, it might look something like Grim and Fischer
. But there’s no major animation studio behind this play, just a wee theater company called Wonderheads, made up of Andrew Phoenix and Kate Braidwood. After several years selling out houses and earning raves on the fringe-fest circuit for Grim and Fischer
, the married couple has returned home to Portland, bringing with them this beguiling little piece of theater. Donning full-face masks—beautiful papier-mâché creations several times larger than a human head—Phoenix plays the Grim Reaper, a balding and frowning spook of a man, and Braidwood is Mrs. Fischer, a spunky old woman not yet ready to have her flame snuffed out. Over the course of the hourlong, dialogue-free play, the two spar and waltz and and groove to “Stayin' Alive,” which carries special resonance here. They’re physical-theater virtuosos, masterfully conveying emotion—shame, embarrassment, defiance, woe—with their movement. Braidwood's hunched back and trembling fingers, for example, tell more than any line of dialogue ever could. Though some jokes are needlessly juvenile, including an extended bit with a whoopee cushion and another gag about a sex hotline, the best moments are not those of exaggeration but of subtlety. The overriding tone straddles a fine line between playful and wistful, as when Fischer dances with a suit jacket by tucking one of the sleeves under her armpit. Even though it's a little too clear where things are heading, we're happy to follow these charming characters there.
5340 N Interstate Ave.Website: wonderheads.com