Review: Magpie Project’s “The Happy Family Series”

A Weird and Gifted “Family” Pulls It Together

happy-family-poster

The Magpies Project present:

The Happy Family Series:
Demonstrations Exploring “Harmonic Antagonisms

inspired by P.T. Barnum’s “The Happy Family
Curated by Shawn Reddy
Emceed by H.B. Ward a.k.a. "The Tamer"
thru December 6th at Viaduct Theatre (ticket info)

reviewed by Paige Listerud

I hardly knew what to make of the press put out by The Magpies Project over The Happy Family Series: Demonstrations Exploring “Harmonic Antagonisms” inspired by P. T. Barnum’s museum piece “The Happy Family.” Living by the creed “There’s a sucker born every minute,” Barnum constructed a fallacious exhibit wherein an assortment of animals, both predators and prey, were forced to live in harmony with each other as a spectacle of example to humankind. As such, The Magpie Project’s own assortment of talented misfits, drawn together from the usual fringe theater suspects, could easily be collected under any random title. Maybe the overwhelming wholesomeness of the holiday season has wormed its way into the company’s artistic direction. Never mind. Any excuse to see these performers is good one.

viaduct Emceeing the madness is H. B. Ward, aka “The Tamer,” who delivers the funniest, most intelligent opening comic monologue I’ve witnessed in years. He’s a man in complete control of the audience—without need of whips and little need of chairs! Most of the rest of the collection, curated by Shawn Reddy, follows in this comic and quirky vein. Whether any of it refers to family hardly matters, but one will find some startling depth along with the laughs.

The first weekend run in particular saw a short memoir simply read aloud by writer and critic Brian Nemtusak. It was the sort of thing one might hear on Public Radio’s This American Life, only with greater psychological depth, quiet power, and less desperate need to please the audience. It came closest to all the evening’s exhibits in articulating the antagonisms between three generations of men and what each generation tried to do to compensate for them. Ira Glass, eat your heart out.

Other sketches executed by Ian Belknap and Edward Thomas-Herrera, such as the subtext of corporate meetings and the dramatic, glamorous imaginings of a lone gay child, were more conventionally funny, but no less entertaining for being so. Far more far out performances were dealt by the musical stylings of Jenny Magnus of Curious Theatre and Chris Schoen of Theatre Oobleck.  I kept thinking Jenny was coming up with any old excuse to sing her songs under the rubric of “family.”

Stopping by to see The Happy Family Series over the next few weeks will be more than worth your while. Who knows, maybe the oddness of the “exhibits” will strike some familial similarity.

 

Rating: ★★★

 

Curated by Shawn Reddy
Emceed by H.B. Ward A.K.A. "The Tamer"

Featuring work by: Martha Bayne, Ian Belknap, Dave Buchen, Chris Bower, Eiren Caffall, Mark Chrisler, Robin Cline, Barrie Cole, Elvisbride Band, Idris Goodwin, David Isaacson, David Kodeski, Jenny Magnus, Brian Nemtusak, Beau O’Reilly, David Pavkovic and Vicki Walden (of DOG), The Lawrence Peters Outfit, Diana Slickman, Edward Thomas-Herrera, and David Wilcox.

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE

WEEK 1:

FRIDAY 11/13
Ian Belknap
Mark Chrisler
Jenny Magnus
Brian Nemtusak
Edward Thomas-Herrera

SATURDAY 11/14
Ian Belknap
Idris Goodwin
Jenny Magnus
Beau O’Reilly
Edward Thomas Herrera

SUNDAY 11/15
Ian Belknap
Eiren Caffall
Idris Goodwin
Brian Nemtusak
The Lawrence Peters Outfit

WEEK 2:

FRIDAY 11/20
Martha Bayne
Mark Chrisler
Beau O’Reilly
Dave Pavkovic & Vicki Walden (of DOG)
David Wilcox

SATURDAY 11/21
Martha Bayne
Chris Bower
Mark Chrisler
Dave Pavkovic & Vicki Walden (of DOG)
David Wilcox

SUNDAY 11/22
Martha Bayne
Chris Bower
Elvisbride Band
Dave Pavkovic & Vicki Walden (of DOG)
Diana Slickman

NO SHOWS THANKSGIVING WEEKEND (Nov 27–29)

WEEK 3:

FRIDAY 12/4
Chris Bower
Dave Buchen
Barrie Cole
David Isaacson
David Kodeski

SATURDAY 12/5
Dave Buchen
Barrie Cole
David Isaacson
David Kodeski
Diana Slickman

SUNDAY 12/6
Dave Buchen
Eiren Caffall
Robin Cline
Barrie Cole
David Isaacson
The Lawrence Peters Outfit

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