|Reviewer: Catherine Siggins|
CLOWN BAR by Adam Szymkowicz
redwhite+bluezz @ The Pasadena Playhouse
Thursday 8th January 2015
It’s January 2015, the year is but a foetus, and what better way to start the year then with a show that will shake you out of your post-holiday-turkey-scoffing-wine-indulging daze, and make you sit up and say ‘WTF??”
Folks, if you’ve not seen a cabaret before, this is the perfect show with which to loose your cabaret cherry, and boy will it go with a B-A-N-G. redwhite+blue Art Productions is bringing to The Pasadena Playhouse venue Adam Szymkowicz’ Off-Broadway hit, Clown Bar, an anarchic show featuring a cast of hyper ‘colorful’ clowns. This show would not be out of place in a venue during the Weimar era- it’s dark, it’s lascivious, and not for the fainted hearted. I wouldn’t recommend bringing your church going mother.
After doors open at 7.30pm, and while you have a cocktail in the bar, the clowns come and mingle, which in some cases can be a bit disconcerting though delightful to watch. Apart from the bubbly nympho Angelina clown, Petunia (Erin Holt), the rest wouldn’t be out of place in One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. Underneath the beautifully colored costumes and artful makeup, lie demons and broken souls, who have perfected the art of gallows humour and intimidation.
At 8pm you are invited into the restaurant and seated for a three-course dinner, with choice of entrée (beef, fish or vegetarian risotto) and the first half of the evenings entertainment, a musical cornucopia of songs that will have you choking on your salad and short rib before your plate is clean. The Master of Ceremonies for the evening is a vocally gifted sad sack clown called Dusty (Amir Levi), who greets the audience, or “beige people” as we non-clowns are known, with very dark stand-up (his suggestions for population control are so close to the bone they made the audience wince), and singing “You’re Not Welcome” to make us feel right at home. Accompanied at the piano by Keys (Richard Levinson), Dusty, with Shotgun McGhee (Esteban Andres Cruz), Giggles (Chairman Barnes), Blinky (Emily Goss), Twinkles (Rafael Goldstein), and Petunia (Erin Holt) entertain us with songs that are hilarious, very blue and full of black humor. There is even a show stopping musical advert break for a sofa retail store, sung by Richard Levinson, who is also the shows Musical Director, a deliciously psychotic balloon blowing mime Popo (Mandi Moss), and burlesque striptease a la Blinky.
Once dinner is dispatched, and after a short intermission, you are transported into the seedy world of Clown Bar, the after hours dive where clowns go to wipe the smile off their faces with a drink or several. Like the noir novels of Raymond Chandler, this bar is full of gangsters and dames, except this crowd are wearing face paint, romper suits and big shoes. Our hero, ex-clown turned tough-as-nails cop, Happy Mahoney (Shawn Parsons) has come to Clown Bar to find out who killed his brother, Timmy (Joe Fria), a pierrot clown who just couldn’t escape his destiny for tragedy, and too sensitive for comedy circuit turned to chemistry to get his funny fix. Happy is looking for answers from the boss, Bobo the Clown (Bruno Oliver). Happy also must face the greater challenge of seeing his ex-girly girl Blinky, the femme fatale who broke his heart with a bump and a grind.
Director Jaime Robledo, and the cast have been imaginative in bringing this world to life in their use of physical comedy, visual gags, tricks, song and dance numbers, props and staging. The dialogue is wise cracking and fast, and the cast really pull out all the stops. The performances are all top-notch and you can see the cast is having heaps of fun. Some clowns may die violently but they don’t go quickly, they don’t go quietly, and always with a gag. Let me put it this way, if Roger Rabbit and cast of Goodfellas had a lovechild, this show would be it.
Hats off to the costume designer Linda Muggeridge, actress and professional clown, Mandi Moss, for the fantastic costume and makeup design. The production team has succeeded in utilizing an awkward space to good effect, although the seating does make it hard for some to watch the cabaret while they eat.
Playing Thursdays for the month of January at redwhite+bluezz @Pasadena Playhouse, Clown Bar will start 2015 for you with a good dose of alternative fun.
Just don’t tell Mama!