Some enchanted evening: 'Alchemedians' magic finds fun in the fantastic

January 18, 1993|By J.L. Conklin | J.L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

Crystal balls suspended in midair and whirling wheels of fire are among the tricks that master juggler Michael Moschen has up his sleeve when he and his partner, expert clown Bob Berky, perform.

"The Alchemedians" liberally sprinkled magic over an engaging combination of dance, theater and mime Saturday night at Towson State University, keeping a sellout audience alternately astonished and howling with laughter. While each man had a separate act -- Mr. Moschen's manipulated objects, while Mr Berky's manipulated our sense of humor -- both relied on our capacity for suspending belief. Adults and children (and there were more than a few) were enchanted.

The performance marked a joint venture of the Mid-Atlantic Movement Festival, the university's dance department and the Dance on the Edge series. The program alternated solos for Mr. Berky and Mr. Moschen, and included two duets -- "Sonics," a lively slapstick dance number with large metal mixing bowls at the end of the first half, and "Fire," an exciting dance with lighted torches that closed the program.

Mr. Berky's solos, "Gymnasium," "Wheel" and "Action," relied heavily on his considerable mime ability and natural gregariousness. He is an endearing, eloquent performer, which helped to convince members of the audience to participate in "Wheel" and "Action." Wearing a false red bulb nose and with a kazoo at his lips, he gently initiated volunteers into the world of pantomime.

"Gymnasium," a tour through one such facility by an over-the-hill jock, was a tad overlong, but Mr. Berky's madness as he stumbled from lifting weights to treadmill was priceless.

All of Mr. Moschen's works were mind-boggling. In the opening piece, "Three Balls," he warmed up by simply juggling white balls, but then he passed them laterally and vertically simultaneously. His movements became small, then large, and the balls moved in a continuous fluid arch. In the second half, he created a syncopated rhythm by bouncing the balls off the floor. This sounds simple enough, but he caught the rebounding balls with his hands and one foot.

"Sticks" began with Mr. Moschen twirling a single silver baton that flashed with holographic intensity under the light design by Dave Feldman. Mr. Moschen's supple movements created the illusion of a finely oiled machine, and the baton became a prismatic shaft of light.

Mr. Moschen is more than a simple manipulator. His wit is as quick as his hands. In "Light," he moves crystal balls and an eye-shaped form through space so deftly that the objects seem to be moving him. At one point a single translucent ball hovers, then moves up his arm, across his body to his other arm. A man behind me summed it up succinctly: "Amazing, amazing, amazing."

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