Review: NoExit's 'The Nutcracker'

NoExit's 'Nutcracker' is an imaginative play on the old holiday favorite.

Big Car Service Center; Dec. 8-10, 15-17

Working a vaguely Eastern European accent somewhere between Yakov Smirnoff and Borat, Ryan Mullin's Herr Drosselmeyer couldn't have been much more magnetic in NoExit's "Island of Misfit Toys"-style production of The Nutcracker (their second such production and first in Big Car's Service Center). He worked the room with the skill of a stand-up (in one funny bit, exposing the audience's proclivity to receive but not to give), acted as an aggressive ringleader trying to please the Nutcracker King (played by a puppet) while beating up on his crew of dancers, and generally maintained a level of manic, agitated energy through the two-hour production.

NoExit's Nutcracker was developed in a bouffon workshop, and as a bouffon - a French anti-clown who might be likened to an insult comedian - Strosselmeyer is a little too nice; we like him and the company too much for this production to have a truly hard edge, although the closing (which precludes a curtain call) does register as fairly hostile.

The dance numbers - warped versions of the divertissements from the ballet's second act - ranged from being a little trite (the Egyptian number) to likably punky (the Plastic Bertrand-esque French delegation) to quite funny (a riff on the Zumba craze that saw a pudgy dance instructor in tight denim shorts and vest smoking cigarettes before losing a Zumba-off to a talented student).

NoExit made creative use of the Big Car space (for instance, the Rat King entered the former garage bay area through one of the garage doors), with its stark concrete floors and kleig-style lighting making the proceedings seem a bit more dangerous.

This is a versatile Holiday show for NoExit - a crowd-pleaser with its aggressive touches, it can evolve from year to year with the addition or subtraction of dance numbers; several numbers were new from last year's more intimate production at the Wheeler.