Legs and All

Legs and All
San Francisco Fringe Festival
Climate Theater, SoMa



It might be odd for a critic to quote the review of another, but whatthefuck. Here’s what Chloe Veltman of the San Francisco Weekly had to say about the world premiere of transplanted UCLA grads and former Westwood college roommates Summer Shapiro and Peter Musante’s absolutely riveting and brilliant performance piece Legs and All, which debuted this month at the Climate Theatre in SoMa as part of the annual San Francisco Fringe Festival: “I was entranced… Shapiro conspired to make the entire audience fall at her feet… a masterful, sweetly scathing performance.”

Yup. That’s it in a nutshell—or in this case, in a big, solitary, crudely-built blue-painted wooden box, where professional clown Shapiro, obviously already something of a beloved phenom within the nurturing confines of her native Bay Area’s blossoming alternative theatrical circles, and her virtuoso collaborator Musante, on hiatus for this event from performing with the Blue Man Group at the Astor Place Theatre in New York City (that’s also him at bat and hit by blue goo in BMG’s local LA Dodger commercials), squeeze their none-too-tiny bodies into totally transformed miniature entities to rival anything ever accomplished by the rubber-boned entertainers who continue to inhabit the work of Cirque du Soleil.


Legs and All is dubbed as a “magical look at the mundane” but, more than just that, it’s an inspired bit of performance art created and executed splendidly by two world-class physical comedians, a radiant pair of skilled and hilariously deadpanning counterculture artistes who instantly made me feel as though I were watching Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin—or was it Lucille Ball and Emmett Kelly—return to our good ol’ terra firma to appear together live one last time.

Legs shoot out from the box, dinnertime turns into a drum brigade, and fights turn to tango dancing as these two intrigued strangers try to scope out one another in Legs and All, for which Shapiro and Musante did some seasoned coast-hopping over the past few months to create their amazingly successful effort to create this mysterious piece with the serendipitous assistance of accomplished vibraphonist Brandi Brandes and featuring an eerily otherworldly sound design created for the event by Jeremy Shapiro.

Paired with their gifted musical duo’s live original soundscape, Legs and All, as Shapiro explains, “peaks at human loneliness as it hits up against the glass ceiling of reality to poke about in the breathing space beyond.” In a world looking only similar to ours, two seemingly solitary and friendless people stumble into the extraordinary from the first seconds that initially find them alone and not quite sure what they’re doing there under the harsh glare of unfiltered stage lighting.

As they uncomfortably discover each other’s presence, they turn their anxiety in an innocent, wonderfully goofy session of child’s play by utilizing a small trunk of props holding such everyday items as a bright yellow rubber ball, for which Musante and Shapiro continuously vie for pouty ownership; a suspended industrial light fixture, from which Musante hangs and swings like a spirited chimpanzee high on mescaline; and a piece of chocolate cake, which of course makes its way onto the faces of both stone-faced performers.

Soon this too-short hour-long entertainment becomes an indelibly fascinating experience for its appreciative viewers—especially when Shapiro’s secretly magnet-supported tea party suddenly turns vertical, as though inspired by the culminating battle scene in the Cirque’s much grander-scaled at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand.


At the end of Legs and All, Summer Shapiro summed up the experience of creating the show with the invaluable aid of Mr. Musante and their musical compatriots as she thanked the excited, energized audience for attending their eventful debut: “Without you,” she said with her broad wink of a smile, “we’d just be two crazy people alone in a room.”

Luckily for those who were lucky enough to attend the world premiere of Legs and All at the charming Climate Theatre as part of the ambitious 2009 San Francisco Fringe Festival, these two future stars of stage, screen, and circus included us on their inspired, hilarious, and most unique journey. With any luck, they’ll be here in El Lay before you know it giving another city a chance to applaud their masterful effort.

Though its world premiere at the San Francisco Fringe Festival is now history, Legs and All is just beginning. Check out its progress—and hopefully a LA run later this season—at www.summershapiro.com. And for more on next year’s amazing SF Fringe, keep tabs at www.sffringe.org .

TRAVIS MICHAEL HOLDER teaches acting and theatre/film history at the New York Film Academy’s west coast campus at Universal Studios. He has been writing about LA theatre since 1987, including 12 years for BackStage, a 23-year tenure as Theatre Editor for Entertainment Today, and currently for ArtsInLA.com. As an actor, he received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Best Actor Award as Kenneth Halliwell in the west coast premiere of Nasty Little Secrets at Theatre/Theater and he has also been honored with a Drama-Logue Award as Lennie in Of Mice and Men at the Egyptian Arena, four Maddy Awards, a ReviewPlays.com Award, both NAACP and GLAAD Award nominations, and six acting nominations from LA Weekly. Regionally, he won the Inland Theatre League Award as Ken Talley in Fifth of July; three awards for his direction and performance as Dr. Dysart in Equus; was up for Washington, DC’s Helen Hayes honors as Oscar Wilde in the world premiere of Oscar & Speranza; toured as Amos “Mr. Cellophane” Hart in Chicago; and he has traveled three times to New Orleans for the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, opening the fest in 2003 as Williams himself in Lament for the Moths and since returning to appear in An Ode to Tennessee and opposite Karen Kondazian as A Witch and a Bitch. Never one to suffer from typecasting, Travis’ most recent LA performance, as Rodney in The Katrina Comedy Fest, netted the cast a Best Ensemble Sage Award from ArtsInLA. He has also been seen as Wynchell in the world premiere of Moby Pomerance’s The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder and Frank in Charles Mee’s Summertime at The Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Giuseppe “The Florist” Givola in Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui for Classical Theatre Lab, Ftatateeta in Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra at the Lillian, Cheswick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Rubicon in Ventura, Pete Dye in the world premiere of Stranger at the Bootleg (LA Weekly Award nomination), Shelly Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Egyptian Arena, the Witch of Capri in Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at the Fountain, and Dr. Van Helsing in The House of Besarab at the Hollywood American Legion Theatre. As a writer, he has also been a frequent contributor to several national magazines and five of his plays have been produced in LA. His first, Surprise Surprise, for which he wrote the screenplay with director Jerry Turner, became a feature film with Travis playing opposite John Brotherton, Luke Eberl, Deborah Shelton and Mary Jo Catlett. His first novel, Waiting for Walk, was completed in 2005, put in a desk drawer, and the ever-slothful, ever-deluded, ever-entitled Travis can’t figure out why no one has magically found it yet and published the goddam thing. www.travismichaelholder.com