- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2007

Italian clown and Fringe festival sensation Ennio Marchetto is a man dedicated to his art, a goofball pastiche of origami, pantomime and high camp. The physical demands of his 70-minute show are daunting, not to mention the paper cuts.

Based on an original concept by Mr. Marchetto and enhanced by Sosthen Hennekam’s slickly modern design elements, “Ennio” is a child’s sticker book brought to colorful life starring Mr. Marchetto as the biggest paper doll of them all.

With reams of paper, bits of strategically placed Velcro and some tissue, Mr. Marchetto transforms himself into Marilyn Monroe in her “Seven Year Itch” white halter dress and quickly morphs into the Mona Lisa (lip synching the song “Venus”) and Gene Kelly swinging his umbrella to “Singin’ in the Rain.” He’s like a manically animated playing card, whipping us willy-nilly through 20th century pop culture where rapper Eminem’s Slim Shady character gives way to ‘70s era disco with Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and Elton John in all his outrageous incarnations. Disney’s Snow White skips onstage and then Mr. Marchetto flips down her signature black tresses to become Ozzie Osborne, who segues into a scantily clad Kylie Minogue.

The show contains nostalgic references for all ages — Peggy Lee singing “Fever” (and taking her temperature in a variety of places) and two Sinatras (Frank and Nancy wearing her white go-go boots) for the geezers; Madonna, Britney Spears and Celine Dion for those weaned on “American Idol.”

At its paper doily heart, “Ennio” is beginner’s drag for the “Hannah Montana” set, family-friendly, but a show grown-ups would normally find at a certain type of cabaret. Anyone who knows his Ru Paul from Lypsinka will recognize the staples of the drag queen pantheon: Judy Garland, Cher, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and Dolly Parton, who hilariously makes her entrance astride a mule.

It is all fast-moving, mindless fun and just when you think you can’t endure one more set of bouncy fake breasts made out of construction paper, it’s over.

This is rampant silliness, and while you appreciate the ingenuity of the fold-out creations and cheerful pop soundtrack, the show rarely goes beyond the level of novelty. The lone exception is when Mr. Marchetto portrays the artist Vincent van Gogh — naturally, the Gnarls Barkley song “Crazy” accompanies this skit — magically converting himself into the famous “Sunflowers” painting. For a brief moment, “Ennio” jumps from the cartoon into something that resembles art.

***

WHAT: “Ennio” by Ennio Marchetto

WHERE: Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW

WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 5 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Through June 10.

TICKETS: $38

PHONE: 202/488-3300

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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