As is fitting for a show with an address for a title, the setting of “32 rue Vandenbranden” is a definite place: a couple of trailer homes somewhere isolated and snowy. The characters, too, are distinctive: six eccentrics all up in one another’s business. But what to call the action? Mimed soap opera? Slapstick horror?
“32 rue” was created in 2009 by Peeping Tom, a Belgian dance-theater company formed in 2000 by the Argentine-born Gabriela Carrizo and the French-born Franck Chartier. Since then the show has become a calling card for the troupe across the globe and has been performed by other companies. But it wasn’t until Wednesday that it had its United States debut, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater as part of the Next Wave Festival.
The skilled, limber cast is largely the original one, an international group (Belgian, British, Brazilian, Korean) who address one another, in scarce snatches of dialogue, by their actual first names. Physically, they’re go-for-broke performers, adept at slipping, sliding and rolling in the snow, intrepid in hurling themselves into the air and against walls.
Jos Baker shares a trailer with Maria Carolina Vieira. She’s a Gumby-like gymnast, bending her back to the ground or wrapping herself around Mr. Baker like a hula hoop. He’s a cartoon of fragile male ego, always taking charge; when his muscle poses deflate, he puffs himself back up while making inflation noises. Together he and Ms. Vieira rock, pendulum-fashion, between pelvis-to-pelvis and forehead-to-forehead positions, like a twin version of a drinking-bird toy.
Hun-Mok Jung arrives standing on the shoulders of Seoljin Kim. Mr. Kim, who can toss his limbs around like a sped-up Ray Bolger, is a sad, adorable romantic with his own personal weather; rain and snow falls just on him. Mr. Jung likes to wear dangling earrings and dance with one hand down the front of his underwear; when some skiers pass by, he waves with the other hand.
Eurudike De Beul, less active than the others, is a maternal figure. Mr. Jung and Mr. Kim suck at her breasts. She’s also an opera singer, applying her dark mezzo soprano not just to Bellini’s “Casta Diva” but also to bravura bits of “Dreamgirls” and Pink Floyd. She starts out in a trailer with the forlorn Marie Gyselbrecht, who appears to be pregnant.
“It’s not your baby,” Ms. Gyselbrecht tells Mr. Kim, and the question of paternity becomes central to a fragmented melodrama suggested by people nimbly entering and exiting the wrong trailers. Fantasy and reality are also blurred deftly, with full-body equivalents of sleight-of-hand.
Yet as the soundtrack turns increasingly noirish, a shift from silly, harmless peculiarity to gore and violence — and particularly to violence against women — is unsettling, and in a way that isn’t entirely successful as art. From the show’s first moments, in which garbage bags amusingly gather to greet Ms. Gyselbrecht, “32 rue” establishes a tone of weightless weirdness. We are voyeurs watching cutely absurd interactions among ridiculous characters. When those interactions suddenly become consequential and serious, though, it’s too late to start caring and the violence too closely resembles just another gag.
32 rue Vandenbranden
Through Saturday at the Harvey Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn; bam.org