BWW Review: LUNATICS & ACTORS Captivates & Mesmerizes in All Its Sober Absurdity
LUNATICS & ACTORS/by David Bridel/directed by Jeremy Aluma/The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles/thru May 28, 2016
Four Clowns' world premiere of playwright David Bridel's LUNATICS & ACTORS wonderfully succeeds as a loving spoof of the acting process. It's to the credit of all involved that what could have been a five-minute Saturday Night Live skit has evolved into 70 minutes of enthralling wit and engaging artistry. Bad acting's truly an art; and to make the bad acting funny, genius!
Dr. Duchenne du Boulogne has invented an electrical zapping device that, when activated on specific spots of a person will make that said person emote whichever emotion Dr. Duchene du Boulogne programs. Of course, Dr. Duchenne du Boulogne has had the opportune time to perfect this acting invention on his patients... at the asylum he runs. Jeremy Aluma smoothly directs this fun romp through a night at the nut house for actors (or is this being redundant?).
The audience's entry into the theatre's met with set designer Fred Kinney's stark, sterile innards of a sanitarium, torture chamber, and awaiting stage for Shakespeare thespians. Dr. Duchenne du Boulogne enters and asks for volunteers (with some acting experience) from the audience to help in his demonstration/experiment. The charismatic Thaddeus Shafer commands the stage as Dr. Duchenne du Boulogne as he alternately charms the audience and controls his three straitjacketed Lunatics -- Tyler Bremer as Bon-Bon, Andrew Eldredge as Pepe and Alexis Jones as Fifi.
Quick on his feet, Shafer seamlessly handles the volunteers' answers turning them into underplayed laughs. Using one volunteer to illustrate the truthful acting process, Dr. Duchenne du Boulogne brings up each of his patients to demonstrate how his zapping induced emotions stack up. Unbelievably, the patients' 'acting' various emotions register with more truthfulness than the volunteer's. With the zap of the doctor's device prods, the patients transformed from slow, emotionally stunted zombies into feeling actors. Bremer's Bon-Bon does wonders with the emotions 'attention,' 'whimpering,' and 'joy.' Eldredge's Pepe's spot-on with 'surprise,' 'terror,' and 'fury.' Jones' Fifi's very convincing with 'reflection,' 'sadness,' and 'pain.' These three actors continuously steal focus with their underplayed insane antics counterpointing Shafer's authoritative 'sanity.' Very brilliant! Ultimately, the Lunatics and the volunteer reenact scenes from Hamlet (with nice sword fighting choreography by Matt Franta).
Kudos to props master Niki Mercs for her handsome, intriguing emotion-zapping contraction complemented by sound designer Kate Fechtig's appropriate sound effects. Lighting designer Azra King-Abadi fittingly lights the various moods of a crazy clinic's insides.
Maybe some Saturday Night Live peeps should confer with Four Clowns for their new sketches???