REVIEW: Red Noses (Strawdog Theatre)

Laughing in the face nose of the Black Plague

 

Strawdog Theatre Red Noses Remount 2

   
Strawdog Theatre presents
  
RED NOSES
   
Written by Peter Barnes
Directed by Matt Hawkins
at Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway (map)
through August 15th |  tickets: $15-$20  |  more info

reviewed by Katy Walsh

Strawdog Theatre Red Noses Remount 1 ‘It’s easy to find someone to share your life with. What about someone to share your death?’  Serious contemplations about the fragility of life get a laugh with the addition of a clown prosthetic.  Strawdog Theatre presents the remount of its successful 2009 production RED NOSES.  14th Century Europe is being plagued with death.  The dying is reaching epidemic proportions.  The survivors are targets for flagellant crazed religious types and victim-hunting scavengers.  From this hopeless void, a joyful priest recruits individuals to fight death with humor.  He forms a traveling troupe of performers to ‘ripple and spread’ amusement across the grieving countryside.   Strawdog’s RED NOSES explores the humorous side of the Black Plague by adding a clown-car-filled cast, jamming it to eighties music and letting death urinate on the wall.

The show starts playfully with a game of toss.  Death arrives with a neon yellow ball. The game becomes deadly.  Victims spew out neon yellow barf.  Game over!  The dying has begun.   Death doesn’t keep anyone down for long.  Zombies rise, dance and sing “Only the Good Die Young.” 

Under the direction of Matt Hawkins, the twenty-three cast members are lively, moving from scene to scene and role to role.  They juggle balls, play instruments, and remove spittle as a tight working ensemble.   It’s all about finding the comedic moment and putting a red nose on it.  Shannon Hoag (Marguerite) is hilarious as the disappointed almost-raped nun.  She belts out a wonderful rendition of “I don’t want to lose your love tonight.”  Sarah Goeden (Bells) and Chelsea Paice (Tricycle Clown Messenger) without a word effectively amuse and communicate with ringing and expressive faces.  Michael E. Smith (Pope) delivers a humorous line and attitude with ‘I don’t have to be wise just decisive.’  It’s the small touches that change dire to funny.  Two amputees do a stub version of a high five.  A blind man calls out a color.  
Death gets his cloak caught in his suitcase.  Cause of death?  Talented cast injects shots of fatal humor.  

Strawdog Theatre Red Noses Remount 3 

‘If there is life after death, why do we have to die?’ Playwright Peter Barnes penned a tale about laughing in the face of death.  To exploit the absurd, he set it in a plague killing era and added clown noses.  The script could go “Patch Adams” cute as one man’s quest to bring joy to the infirmed.  Strawdog wisely chooses a “Monty Python” approach with comedy influenced by pushing the funny aspect of sensitive content.  Barnes’ play has a propensity to go long and tedious with some productions exceeding a three hour running time.  Even with Mike Przygoda (Music Director) orchestrating the 80’s flashback with a high-energy, live soundtrack, the second act gets a little tiresome with death-defying religious undercurrents. Still, “You gotta have faith!” Strawdog’s RED NOSES is plagued with comedy for whatever ails you! 

 

   
   
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Strawdog Theatre Red Noses Remount 4

Running Time:  Two hours and twenty minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission

  
   

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REVIEW: Kink (Annoyance Theatre)

Kink it is-—NOT!

 

kinkposter 

Annoyance Theatre presents:

Kink

 

By Rachel Farmer, Mikala Bierma and Christina Boucher
directed by
Rebecca Sohn
Musical directed by Lisa McQueen
through March 6th (more info)

review by Paige Listerud

GREG: I’m a workin’ man, sellin’ Coke and wearin’ a thong . . .

I’m a workin’ man, wearin’ panties everyday

I’m a workin’ man—God bless the USA!

A word of advice to musical comedy creators out there: christen your show with a title like Kink and the pressure is on to deliver. Either deliver the kink–or a piercing commentary on kinkiness—or change the title. By putting “Kink” out front like that, you’ve set up your audience with expectations of being blown away, metaphorically speaking.

kinkposter The song “Sex Is Everywhere” kicks off a new musical by Mikala Beirma, Christina Boucher, and Rachel Farmer at Annoyance Theatre, directed by Rebecca Sohn. It’s almost as if they are telegraphing their dilemma. With every sexual persuasion just a mouse click away, the ubiquity of sex leaves less power to shock and titillate. The trouble is, that same ubiquity also gives sexual situations within comedy less power to shock or amuse. So where do you get your laughs from now, bitches?

Well, the creators of Kink demonstrate that you can still get them; if you’re willing to go deeper. They hit it on the head while exploring the earnest emotions of tomboy Julie Allman (Rachel Farmer), who, in the song “Acceptable Girl,” just wants to play high school girls’ basketball, not try out stupid dresses for prom. They achieve it through exploring her sister Tammy’s lofty, teenage romantic fantasies. The tune “Love Conquers All” dredges up every fucked-up, pop-culture depiction of love that Tammy (Christina Boucher) accepts as absolute truth. If a girl and a vampire . . . or a girl and a werewolf . . . or a guy and a mermaid can find true love, then so can she.

In fact, the character of Tammy Allman is pure comic gold. She hardly suspects what life’s really all about but she is ready to take the perilous plunge in “I’m getting ready for my life.” Boucher’s delivery of Tammy’s big number during half time at the homecoming basketball game, “Sweat Pants Dance,” shows utter comic commitment. By mid-show, the sound of Tammy’s voice alone had me giggling automatically.

But comedy surrounding Mom and Dad falls flat in this ultra-suburban setting. Nancy Allman (Mikala Bierma) and her husband Greg (Rachel Farmer) have desires they’ve never admitted to each other. Nancy wants to be a dominatrix and Greg loves to cross-dress. But other than the patriotic flourish with which Greg expounds on his love of ladies’ undergarments, not much comedy is generated out of their unfulfilled desires. It’s as if the creators agree with Tammy and Julie’s discussion of their parents, late at night in their bedroom:

JULIE: That’s not love. Look at Mom and Dad.

TAMMY: They fell in love at first sight!

JULIE: Yeah, and now their lives are over.

It’s clear Bierma, Farmer, and Boucher haven’t worked through all the comic ramifications of “Can This Marriage be Saved?” with Nancy and Greg. A longstanding advice feature of Ladies Home Journal, “Can This Marriage be Saved” has obviously been supplanted in the Kink universe by the overwhelming philosophical presence of Oprah and Dr. Phil, an issue address with the song, “Hallelujah, Oprah!”

As it is, the show handles sexual content bombastically and superficially, rather than getting to the center of disconnection between long-married husband and wife. As late night entertainment at Annoyance, one expects the limits on language and sexuality to be pushed and the blow-up dolls to be tossed around. But having crossed that Rubicon, it’s pushing the truth on human sexual experience that really makes for outrage.

 

Rating: ★★

 

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