Ah, the classic boy-meets-overcoat tale. A civil servant discovers that his old overcoat isn’t protecting him from the St. Petersburg cold so he saves up his roubles to go and see a tailor. There are only three performers on stage: Ai-Cheng Ho, a dancer playing the overcoat-loving Akaky Bashmachkin, Chen-Han Wu, a percussionist who provides perfectly timed slapstick sound effects for Ho’s movements and Oleg Liptsin, also the director, who plays a storyteller-narrator. It’s a patchwork production in a variety of ways, with a mixture of dance, music and speech, the use of an iPad for a variety of multimedia effects and Ho speaking most (but not all) of her lines in her native Taiwanese.
Not every piece of this intricate puzzle fits. While this sort of over the top comedy can be fun, Ho relies too heavily on exaggerated facial expressions. The iPad, though sometimes effective, made Liptsin look more like someone procrastinating during a commute than performing on a stage.
On the whole, however, this is a charming fable. It is, at its moments, nuanced observational comedy brought to life by Ho’s movement. She's really the star of the show. Her dancing, whether it is tracing out letters with her body or a marvellous pas-de-deux between man and coat, is full of vitality, humour and character and she makes Akaky both sweet and sympathetic enough to have the audience rooting for him throughout. Pei-Yu Chen’s choreography should also be applauded in achieving such characterisation.
Overcoat is a novel take on the classic love story only the hardest-hearted could fail to smile at it.