Lunatics & Actors
What an odd -- if entertaining -- show Four Clowns Productions have given us in their latest insanity: "Lunatics & Actors". Combining fact-based information on the ground-breaking work of 19th Century French neurologist, Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne (1806-1875), and today's acting techniques, writer David Bridel and director Jeremy Aluma have concocted a silly but fun show.
Taking three of Dr. Duchenne's mentally ill patients to illustrate how "science" (in this case electric shock to the body and face) can out-best contemporary acting styles (especially The Method), during a lecture. He has "volunteers" from the audience discuss their acting abilities, with one of them demonstrating his Shakespearian skills by showcasing his Hamlet opposite Fifi (Alexis Jones ) as Ophelia and as Gertrude, Bon-Bon (Tyler Bremer) and Pepe (Andrew Eldredge) as Claudius and Laertes. Then, at the end, they do a dumbshow of "Hamlet" to drum music.
It's not quite as bizarre as it sounds, and, of course, makes no logical sense mixing 19th and 20th Century acting styles, with the crazies coming off, supposedly, as sincere and meaningful; more involved than this volunteer. But since it is "theatrical," we can forgive what rubbish it is intellectually, and just have fun at the actors' antics.
Thaddeus Shafer is Dr. Duchenne, in a weird French/German accent (Duchenne was not from the Alsace-Lorraine province), so who knows what Shafer was attempting? Nevertheless, it's all part of the fun in this under-90-minutes show. The actors seem to be having a blast with it, which then allows us to be entertained, too.
The theatre space, rented at the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, is huge, so designer Fred Kinny's painted large flats to look like concrete panels, which allowed the actors plenty of running space, keeping the action fluid. Aluma has performed a yeoman's job in allowing his actors creative movements and keeping their brand of insanity to a quiet roar. Jones, Bremer and Eldredge haven't caricatured madness, but do keep it on a level that is bound to upset the Mental Health PC-police. And Shafer keeps their interactions somewhat realistic.
Now, clearly, this show isn't for everybody, but watching trained comic/actor/clowns having their way with the material, works. See it and laugh out loud, but try not to be too puzzled at what you're seeing.
"Lunatics & Actors" plays through May 28 at the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, 1238 W. 1st Street. For tickets or information, call 562-508-1788 or visit www.fourclowns.org