New York

Leo Bassi, Nero's Last Folly

Perry Street Theatre

Leo Bassi began by complaining about the description of him as “Italy’s favorite clown-terrorist,” maintaining that if such a title belonged to anyone, it was Mussolini. Behind the vaudevillian veneer, however, Bassi’s show examined the power dynamic in a performer/audience relationship, revealing it to be much like that between dictator and silent majority. We, the spectators, were soon implicated in our willingness to remain passive, to be dominated. After all, we’d come to the theater knowing that in every performance, Bassi hits one spectator in the face with a cream pie and threatens to burn down the house. Usually it’s performers who speak of motivation, but Nero’s Last Folly, 1989, forced the audience to question theirs.

On the stage sat a red velvet chair atop a dais: a throne. Bassi began by marching down the aisle to the tune of something imperial, glaring at individual spectators

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