CAVEAT: I am once again touring a one-man show to the Kansas City Fringe Festival, affording me a unique opportunity to review some shows coming to the Minnesota Fringe in earlier stages of development – with the reminder that live theatre changes from performance to performance, and shows may undergo significant alteration from Fringe to Fringe.
SHOW TITLE: “Mom?” A Comedy of Mourners
PRODUCER: Box of Clowns
HAILING FROM: Oregon
SHOW DESCRIPTION: Death can be scary. So can clowns. But what if they weren’t? Three clown siblings mourn the loss of their mother by daring to find joy. It’s OK to laugh at this funeral, and it’s OK to cry at this clown show.
When I introduced myself to these guys at one of the after-parties, I quipped “Hey, I’m a mime – I guess that we’re supposed to be mortal enemies.” A feeble jest, and only half of one, really – the forms are superficially similar, but aesthetically they’re pretty different, and they tend to draw pretty different kinds of personalities. People really do tend to lean one way or the other. My fondness is for the clean, meticulous, dancelike precision that most mimes favor, rather than looser and seemingly spontaneous clowning.
Which is no way to imply that this is not an exhaustively rehearsed and carefully blocked show! It clearly is, particularly for their more gymnastic business. (Not that that business is particularly astonishing – it’s not intended to be, not like watching an acrobat; it’s character-driven, not stunt-driven. We’re not gasping at their physical prowess, but laughing at the improbable contortions those characters find themselves in.)
To complain about the lack of plot would be missing the point, because it’s barely there and it’s not why we’re watching. Picking up a suitcase takes five minutes; handing it to another character takes another five, as they get distracted and sidetracked by a dozen different things. (Shades of Graham Chapman’s King Arthur; Monty Python’s flick isn’t about a grand quest, but the failure of a grand quest to even get started.) This is comedy of frustration.
The show is interactive – not in the sense that they pull audience onstage, but, well – characters will perform a simple action, then turn out to us expectantly, waiting for us to respond; then they respond to our response. This is the heart of red-nose clowning. I rarely have patience for it.
There is much that I enjoyed! The funereal setting gave just enough solemnity for the silliness to play against, without bogging it down. I particularly enjoyed the senselessly destructive, Harpo-esque Mango. I laughed occasionally. I smiled often.
What this is is a trio of very fine, well-trained, and polished clowns at the top of their game. I just wish that it was a game I was more wired to enjoy.
Questions? Comments? Enraged invective? Check out my answers to occasionally asked questions in Notes on Notes, or the contact info linked from that page!