Fusiform Gyrus - A Septet for Two Scientists and Five Horns

Peter Zummo (holding a trombone) and Tom Nelis (as Aiden Grey) help examine a small red object held by Paul Zimet (as Dr. Fred Decker). Original photo by Suzanne Opton.

By Andrew Andrews

Think for a moment about your favorite preschool television shows—the ones with goofy characters just interesting enough to keep you entertained while, on the sly, they were trying to teach you something, too. Maybe there was a song and dance about being polite, or sharing, or looking both ways before crossing the street. As you grew older, maybe the bits became increasingly sophisticated, with lessons about topics a little more complex: a scientific concept, the basics of mathematics, or the principles of democracy. Now picture those same characters, themselves growing older with the passage of time. Old enough, eventually, to retire, and putz around, and become cranky, and more set in their ways...

Put a couple of those characters back on the television set, and throw in a five piece brass band, and give them a script that expresses their maturity while keeping true to their familiar song and dance. Call it an experiment in theatre... and name it Fusiform Gyrus - A Septet for Two Scientists and Five Horns.

Aiden Grey (played by Tom Nelis) and Dr. Fred Decker (Paul Zimet) are scientists—retired scientists, as it happens—and the Fusiform Gyrus is a part of the brain that’s associated with recognition and categorization. It’s also a new show from Talking Band at HERE, written and composed by Ellen Maddow and directed by Ellie Heyman. This truly unique production will take you back to those early years of learning from your favorite characters—that is, if said characters had been invented by Quentin Tarantino and directed by David Lynch! Fred and Aiden are good friends, see, because their "brains are joined at the hip," as they put it. With vaudeville flair, they sing songs about the large blue butterfly and its unusual parasitic relationship to fire ants, and an acquaintance who named his disabled body parts after suffering a stroke, and a cumulative song explaining what they see through their "minds eye." And then, just when this lighthearted story is about to fizzle out, something dark happens: Fred becomes envious that Aiden has received a flash drive from their mutual friend Ann Green (Kim Gambino), containing a riddle in the form of a homemade video with illegible sound.

Delving into the complexities of relationships and the obstination of growing old, while subtly brushing upon climate change, mental illness and defeatism, Fusiform Gyrus is as surprising as it is entertaining, as strange as it is familiar, as ingenious as it is traditional, as much Twin Peaks as it is Schoolhouse Rock. The orchestra—Chris DiMeglio, Lathan Hardy, Sam Kulik, Jessica Lurie, Stefan Zeniuk and Peter Zummo—interact with the actors throughout the show, providing not only musical accompaniment, but also spooky sound effects, feedback and assurance to the characters. So give this one a shot, then come back here and let us know what it did for you. Whether it brings back grand old memories or leaves you feeling something less than nostalgic, your reviews help others decide whether they should attend, and your ratings help us help you find events and activities you’ll love!

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Andrew Andrews attended Fusiform Gyrus - A Septet for Two Scientists and Five Horns at HERE in New York on Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 7:00pm to write this review.