BWW Review: SOME HUMANS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS SHOW a Sharp Satire With a Deep Message
SOME HUMANS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS SHOW is a difficult show to describe as it is all over the map...and that is in no way a bad thing. This new work, by C.B. Goodman, was inspired by the 1903 public execution of Topsy, the elephant, and although there are clear echoes from the beginning, the inspiration never really becomes clear until the final moments, yet it never telegraphs the surprise ending, which takes a huge turn from the riotous belly laughs of the great majority of this highly entertaining and thought provoking production.
The set up begins, really, from the moment you enter the theatre where club level loud dance music blares and a disco light show by Lowell Bartholomee bounces off Ia Ensterä's impressive repurposed shipping pallet set. Eventually, Helen (Ellie McBride) comes from the wings and we suddenly become part of the audience attending what, at first, seems like a staff meeting for Big Top Thrift. This will not be the last time the audience becomes part of the action nor will this be the only locale. Helen decides to tell her background as part of a production that she calls "theatricalized life". Enter the Big Top Thrift Players with the saga of Thrift Store Helen (Delanté G. Keys) and a hilarious drag show enspired take on alcoholism, incarceration, and Tony Robbins ensues. To tell any more would ruin the fun to be had...and there's a lot. I haven't had such deep belly laughs in ages.
C.B. Goodman's script is a rich and multilayered affair that has been turned into a carnival ride of a production that has been brilliantly directed by Goodman herself. The script is part scathing satire, part deranged drag show and part deeply humanizing take on animal torture and statement on the death penalty. It's a lot to pack into one act, but it has been done with immense style. She is aided by some excellent and highly physical choreography by Amy Morrow and Rebecca Whitehurst. The entire affair is absolutely frantic until it takes a surprising twist in the final moments. The live, original music from Amber Quick is beautiful, adding greatly to the proceedings. The lighting by Aaron Curry works beautifully in support of the multiple locales piece and Lowell Bartholomee's sound and video projection work is superb, especially in the section where the changes come about.
Goodman's script is aided by a fearless company of performers that cross genders throughout the show within a show. Ellie McBride is brilliant as Helen, carefully sculpting and building this character and never revealing anything too soon. As her "theatricalized" doppelganger, Thrift Shop Helen, Delanté G. Keys proves once again that he is one of the most fearless actors in Austin. His performance is amazingly physical and extremely funny. Katy Taylor is impressive as Tony, coming out into the audience to force engagement. Bridget Farr gives a touching and subtle performance as Willowdean, that really delivers in the final moments.
In summary, SOME HUMANS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS SHOW has a lot to offer in a rather short running time. This is some delicious satire, performed with obvious glee by a cast of fearless actors that will make you laugh and ultimately, touch you deeply. I have tried not to spoil the message here, and I strongly advise you to catch SOME HUMANS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS SHOW. People will be talking about this one for a while.
SOME HUMANS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS SHOW, created by: CB Goodman.
Running Time: Approximately 75 minutes with no intermission
Advisory: Contains nudity
SOME HUMANS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS SHOW, produced by En Route Productions at Ground Floor Theatre (979 Springdale Rd, Austin, TX, 78702).
Thursdays through Saturdays through Oct. 6
Sept. 20th-22nd, 2018 at 8 pm. Sept. 27th-29th, 2018 at 8 pm. (Tickets:$20) Oct. 1st is a 7 pm pay-what-you-can performance with proceeds going to Texas Coalition To Abolish The Death Penalty. A Death Penalty panel discussion is at 7 before the play.