It was fortuitous I ran into two members of Fourth Wall Ensemble last week at WISH-TV, where they and yours truly were guests on Life. Style. Live! Otherwise, I would have overlooked the fact they were performing their show “Fruit Flies Like a Banana” at The District Theatre, which I saw on Friday. Hilary Abigana and Greg Jukes (C. Neil Parsons, the group’s third member, was absent) killed it on live TV that day, as did the entire group on The District stage.
I first saw Fourth Wall, a trio that is a hybrid of music, comedy, and dance, when they appeared in the 2013 IndyFringe Festival. I was impressed with them then and my admiration for their virtuoso performance abilities only grew upon seeing them a second time. Each member is a classically trained musician with prestigious educational credentials, Abigana on flute, piccolo, Irish whistle and melodica, Jukes on percussion, accordion and toy piano, and Parsons on bass, trombone and slide whistle. They were all marvels at playing their instruments while dancing and contorting their bodies with acrobatic finesse.
While riding hoverboards, the ensemble commenced heir show with “Waltz in Db-major, Op. 64, No. 1” by Frédéric Chopin, the audience was then invited to determine the show’s order by yelling out letters of the alphabet hanging from a line strung behind the performers. Making for great interactive participation, Jukes selected individuals from the audience to choose the letters, each of which corresponded with titles of different routines. All highly entertaining, many of them featured complex choreography and were flawlessly executed, some in brilliant fashion.
Favorites of mine included “AMERICA!” – “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa, “Carmen” – “Les Toreadors” from “Carmen Suite No. 1” by Georges Bizet, “Five” – “Take 5: by Paul Desmond, “Marimba” – “La Escoba” traditional, arranged by Terry L. Baldrig,” “Nineteen Seventies – “8-Track Mind” by various artists, “Quiet” – “Gymnopedie No. 1” by Eril Satie, and “Wings” – “The People Could Fly” by “Dr. Alice Jones.
For those unfamiliar with the term “breaking the fourth wall,” the Fourth Wall ensemble successfully illustrated how they remove barriers, connecting directly with the audience through their zany antics. A modern update of an old-fashioned vaudeville show, I will go out on a limb and say there is no other ensemble quite like Fourth Wall anywhere. At least none featuring these three multi-talented artists, who make classical music, which is focal in their show, thoroughly accessible. They also successfully combine interdisciplinary arts forms with gentle and lighthearted humor to joyfully engage audiences, both young and old.