NYCLOWNFEST: Slap it on thick boys, it’s a 9-pack! (9 shows in 3 days!)

In my vain attempt to see all of the shows of the NY Clown Festival (vain because I have already failed, and I’m missing a bunch next week), I’m trying to see 9 shows this weekend.  3 on Friday, 4 on Saturday, and 2 on Sunday (I may try to top it off with a little circus Amuse Bouche, and try to catch Circus Amok as well during Sunday afternoon. I’m crazy like that.

Here’s what I saw on Friday night (Saturday night’s shows will follow)

UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS

Unbearable LightnessI’m a big fan of Denni Dennis’s work– I’ve featured him on clownlink before: (well, I guess that’s less a feature and more of a mention) Here, he and a partner (Kate Taylor) play devils.  It starts off very strong as Denni Kabuki walks his way through the theater, and then Kate’s entrance has an equally seductive (and totally opposite) sexy jazz entrance.  There’s great interplay between the two characters, and a funny game/selection process that brings them to one final audience member, who they are going to… well, it’s actually not clear what they are going to do to the audience member.   It doesn’t quite happen, and there’s a fall out from that. ( I don’t want to ruin your ending, in case you actually go see the show)  There’s a couple of uncomfortable moments with this audience member– and part of it is planned, and part of it wasn’t.  The night I saw it our audience member was very game, and having a great time, until suddenly, the actors dropped the ball, and she became uncomfortable, and that made us the audience uncomfortable.  It’s hard to say whether or not it was intentional (it was a dark moment)– but the moment where the volunteer became uncomfortable was very clear.  I think that both of these actors could have kept they were doing going, but still kept the audience member with them, and game.   The end of the show came for me with a little bit of a down note because of this.  Up until this moment I (and the rest of the audience) were having a pretty great time. They have one more show on Monday 9/17 at 7 pm, and it’s worth going to.  This show has a very different sensibility than many of the other shows in the festival.  Denni is also teaching a workshop in Clown Intuition for the festival.

GUERRA

Guerra

Next up was Guerra, which was perhaps my favorite show of the festival so far.  Two clowns enter– the captain and the soldier, and they proceed to go about their business of winning the war.  In the process they find a recruit from the audience (who turns out to be a shill)  The senselessness of war gets featured, and the “unspeakable things” that happen at war get mimed with great abandon.  All of the actors were really great, but a special nod goes to Fernando Córdova Hernández, (he’s the guy in the middle) who as the soldier manages from the moment he enters to be both proud and moronic at just the same time.  His entrance is astonishingly wonderful, and he keeps his character going all the way through.  I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him.

You can  read an article about the making of the show via tcg here and you can see a trailer via Youtube here (although the set at the Brick looked nothing like the set in the Youtube trailer)

Poe and Mathews
Poe and MathewsThe last show I saw on Friday night was Poe and Mathews.  This was also their last performance of the festival. It starts out with an intriguing premise.  What if a really well known writer Poe and an unknown writer Mathews get stuck on a desert island.  And what if they hate each other?  The actors are quite good, and the guy playing Mathews (in an absurd fat suit and facial hair) was very funny. (And the woman playing Poe was pretty good also)  It felt a little bit like a Charles Ludlam Ridiculous play (which is high praise)  Unfortunately, the play (nor the playing) got Ridiculous enough, and the stakes for the actors weren’t pushed high enough.  I wanted to see them get crazier and crazier and spin off into new levels of craziness, but they never got there. The acting was good, but the story/writing re-played the same beat too many times, and because the play was more on the theatre side than on the clown side, there wasn’t room enough for the actors to really interact with the audience.

There was a lot of good slapstick and character work in the show,and I enjoyed the show quite a lot, but it didn’t quite gel for me (It was also my third show of the evening,which is of course no fault of the production)

I’d recommend seeing this show if you get the chance.

So that was the first three shows I saw of the weekend.  I’ll detail the next four in my next post!

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