The Stink of Destiny, WNEP Theater Foundation, at Zebra Crossing Theatre. This is a performance that WNEP members will probably look back on as a pivotal moment in their development. Audiences are unlikely to feel the same. These interwoven movement-theater and mimed stories about murder, elderly dating, and child abuse represent the company’s first experiment with dramatic nonverbal performance, and their earnest self-initiation into one of theater’s most difficult forms falls prey to the easy traps of the genre. Although the stories are an interesting mix of melodrama and clowning, the characters are either bland stereotypes who make the narrative predictable or vague sketches who muddy the plot.

The pantomime work is generally difficult to follow, and whole scenarios are built around mysterious activities. Puzzling these out–was that a microwave or a CD player?–interferes further with the storytelling. And the whiteface clown who serves as ringmaster for the three stories is bland, reproducing the familiar shtick of the rueful but lovable failure.

I wanted to like this work more. The stories’ themes are ambitious, and the sound track is well chosen, combining Carmina Burana, Ennio Morricone, the Tijuana Brass, and Peter Gabriel. But this young company needs disciplined training from theater artists more experienced in movement who can help make their skill equal to their enthusiasm.

–Carol Burbank