bing bongs and bananas
Two years ago, I had the absolute pleasure of writing about friendly, absurdist, brilliant comedy dance troupe Cocoon Central Dance Team for the Village Voice. I’d seen them perform at UCB not long before, its three members Sunita Mani, Eleanore Pienta and Tallie Medel murdering their sketch. UCB’s Chelsea stage is a small one, intimate and cramped, but they danced around as if with no constraints at all. That was their dance with fruit, I believe, one where there’s video game like footage screened above (in which they’re wearing gold jackets and slicing fruit) and they’re dancing in front of you, gold jackets again, eating bananas.
I reached out to see if they’d be interested in an article and, luckily, they were. Which meant I got to spend days watching rehearsal, watching their show, and talking to them at length about how they conceived of their tone, who they were and what was up next. Here’s what I remember distinctly:
1. They were humble and sweet
2. They were endlessly complimentary of each other
3. They were incredibly dedicated to their work and tone
And this, No. 3, was one of the things that was most striking about this show I was covering, Snowy Bing Bongs Across the North Star Combat Zone. It was completely absurd - they told the story of the Snowy Bing Bongs, sheepskin creatures with white pantyhose heads, battling their arch-nemeses, beachballs, interspersed with disconnected monologues and other dance sketches (bad lip sync to Robyn’s “Show Me Love," for instance) but everything made perfect sense. Or, if it didn’t, their tone was so honed and friendly and fun, it just didn’t matter. We were game for the ride. Only hard work - sorry, only all three of the above could achieve that.
And now, two years later, the feat is this film they’ve created. Well, the feat is this film they’ve created with directors Rachel Wolther and Alex H. Fischer. Rachel and Alex approached Cocoon after the show, expressed exactly the same wow we must all have been feeling but went a bit further, saying, can they make the film?
Today, all of the elements are there: the Bing Bongs, the monologues and lip sync, the laughs … But Rachel and Alex were able to take something singular that worked partly because it was live, and make it work on a giant, two-dimensional screen. Transitions between disparate sketches and the world of the Bing Bongs are seamless, the latter so much more developed and three-dimensional than what we saw on stage. Indeed it’s now a universe, colorful, bright and DIY. That was my biggest takeaway from the film. This non-story story works again, and it’s just so beautiful.
By the end of the film it was clear. We wouldn’t just go where Sunita, Tallie and Eleanore took us. We were in it with Alex and Rachel as well.