The metamorphoses of Madonna, or Elton John changing fashions and overburdening specs ... Judy Garland as Dorothy, belting out “Over The Rainbow” while absent-mindedly petting a pinwheel-headed Toto ... and just how does a paraplegic Venus De Milo line-dance to Zorba The Greek ?
Ennio Marchetti doesn’t pose any questions—and he’s running too fast onstage even to pose, most of the time—in his eponymous one-man extravaganza of lip-sync and quick-change, Ennio, at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Stage.
Like riffling through a dealer’s pack, all face-cards, Ennio materializes 50 figures out of pop culture’s photo-ops with breakneck speed, each accoutered in front-panelled regalia, each as thin as a playing card. In record time, he’s staged a sideshow anthology of an all-star Vegas gala, a witty resumé of music video-bites, and left his audience gasping for the breath to keep laughing.
Ennio’s rubberfaced silliness keeps them laughing through a nonstop 90-minute show, here on a limited run, ending this Sunday. A Venetian who went from espresso mechanic to Carnival costumer, he debuted his two-dimensional tour-de-force at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, playing Morrissey’s Meltdown Fest and scoring a command performance for the Queen of England—as well as the moniker, “the human paper-doll.”
Ennio’s costumes and masks are billed as origami but are different in texture (and technique) from the Japanese original. Folded, painted paper, they’re more like sandwich boards or mobile stand-up cut-outs—paper-dolls indeed. And Ennio himself is the animator, sprinting and hoofing it through a spectrum of changes as he litters the breadth and depth of the Roda with his spent fashion plate costumery, while he continually morphs into yet another icon or diva.
The sound system never stops, either, pumping out high-powered heads of the hits of the past half century. The audience becomes clap-happy with recognition as Ennio tears through the pages of Variety, morphing from Frankenstein to Frank (Sinatra) to daughter Nancy, whose boots are made for walkin’ pretty much like the stiff-legged strut of Boris Karloff, though garnished with Big Hair.
An Indian dancer goes Nashville, then Motown ... Diana Ross is somehow reincarnated as Shiva in a shower of testifying paper arms ... Cleopatra charms her asp with an alto sax.
And there are one-man duets: Ella folding up from Louis Armstrong’s shoulders in a kind of leapfrog cover that brings Louis to his knees—or Dolly Parton laboring uphill to her “Tennessee Mountain Home” astride her mule—or a pop-up trio, as the tuneful heads of the missing two Three Tenors spring out from the girth of Pavarotti’s gargantuan lapels.
But Ennio’s at his best with the Divas, whether pop, country or opera, or from the silver screen, as a highlight proves to be his entrance in a big, sleeveless suit. Turning down the sound on his Walkman, pulling an invisible cord for “lights out,” he’s suddenly under the covers, unfolding from his suit like a wash-and-wear Murphy bed, which then morphs into Marilyn’s famous dress (and breasts) from The Seven-Year Itch, as Ennio lip-synchs “I Want to Be Loved by You,” momentarily exiting in a shower of paper valentines, then back in the spotlight as Mona Lisa in a rocking, revolving frame, grimacing in lieu of the famous smile to “She’s Got It.”
It’s fast, funny, and paper-thin, though unstoppable, even when the record skips, the CD becoming an echo-chamber. There are a few flashes of silly-putty sculptural expression reminiscent of Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca sending up the pretty faces of the entertainment world.
But Ennio’s created a small niche all of his own with professional cleverness. If nothing else, he’s created one of the few drag acts for family consumption.
Through Sunday at the Berkeley Rep, 2015 Addison St. $20-$45. For more information, call 647-2949 or see www.berkeleyrep.org.
Photograph Courtesy of Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Ennio Marchetto creates 50 characters such as Marilyn Monroe, using only paper and music.