Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: Absurdly Comic OLD CLOWN WANTED Gets West Coast Premiere at Odyssey

Review: Absurdly Comic OLD CLOWN WANTED Gets West Coast Premiere at Odyssey

Romanian-French playwright Matei Visniec began writing his absurdly comic play OLD CLOWN WANTED in Bucharest in 1986 and finished it in exile in Paris in 1987. Since then his play about the three old clowns looking for work has been staged in some 15 countries, perhaps everywhere in the world where ancient clowns, worn down by life, marginalized and at the end of their rope, nevertheless are determined to deliver one last message to humanity.

Playwright Visniec shares, "It's this cruel side of life which so interests me, the side that sometimes transforms us into vicious clowns, moronic clowns compelled to strut about, to perform in the great social comedy, playing into the hands of the machine conceived for the purpose of humiliating us, of dehumanizing us, of killing us. And then I believe that today, when so many of the grotesque buffoons around the world find themselves sitting on high at the summit of power, my play about the clowns also has political connotations."

Inspired by a 1970 Federico Fellini film, Review: Absurdly Comic OLD CLOWN WANTED Gets West Coast Premiere at Odyssey OLD CLOWN WANTED centers on three aging clowns who compete for a job in a room with no windows and very little furniture, in which theater and circus arts are intertwined in an absurdist, cynical, tender and very funny look at aging and man's fear of uselessness in society. The entertaining and non-stop action in this new translation from the French by Jeremy Lawrence, is appropriately directed by Romanian-born Florinel Fatulescu, who has won numerous theater awards for his daring and innovative style. While the overall production seemed very Italian in nature to me, there was certainly enough Vaudevillian slapstick schtick to keep audiences laughing from start to finish.

Of course, it takes three incredibly talented actors with enough energy to last through all the necessary physical movement which takes place constantly throughout the 90-minute play. Review: Absurdly Comic OLD CLOWN WANTED Gets West Coast Premiere at Odyssey And those three are Alan Abelew, José A. Garcia and Beth Hogan as Niccolo, Filippo and Peppina, three elderly, washed up circus clowns who run into one another at an audition for a "small part for old clown." As they wait for a casting director who never arrives, they begin to reminisce - but their camaraderie only carries them so far before competition for the job takes over. Along the way, we are taken with them on a physical as well as intellectual journey in which insights are gained about man's fear of uselessness in society and our constant need to outsmart each other to prove our own superiority.

"This is a special work by a brilliant writer who is little-known in the U.S.," Review: Absurdly Comic OLD CLOWN WANTED Gets West Coast Premiere at Odyssey says Odyssey Theatre artistic director Ron Sossi. "It's reminiscent of everything from Beckett's Waiting for Godot to Sartre's No Exit, but with a huge dash of comedy and clowning thrown in. The Odyssey has always been committed to producing plays from other countries, and we are lucky to have a wonderful Romanian director available. Florinel was especially excited after seeing Alan and Beth perform together in our production of Beckett 5. These two Odyssey regulars, coupled with newcomer José A. Garcia, are a magnificent combination."

I totally agree and the talents of these three made this play one of the best productions I have seen at the Odyssey in recent years. Review: Absurdly Comic OLD CLOWN WANTED Gets West Coast Premiere at Odyssey But I must admit, when the final remaining clown entered the self-opening doors after securing the job, it made me wonder if perhaps these three were really auditioning to enter the gates of Heaven as the final step in a life well lived.

Kudos to the entire creative team including set designer Jeff Rack, lighting designer Bosco Flanagan, sound designer John Zalewski; costume designer Amanda Martin, prop master Josh La Cour and clowning consultant John Achorn for all their contributions to this remarkable entertaining and incredibly thought-provoking production.

I just wish I was one of the lucky ones Review: Absurdly Comic OLD CLOWN WANTED Gets West Coast Premiere at Odyssey to catch a red clown nose thrown out to audience members during the show to remind us life is really not worth living without laughter to offset the absurdity constantly around us.

The West Coast premiere of OLD CLOWN WANTED ended on Sunday, November 4, 2018 at the Odyssey Theatre, located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information about upcoming productions, call (310) 477-2055 or go to

Photo credit: Enci Box

Immersive 'stage reading' of Disney's account of his last days on earth is both frightening and hilarious.

Review: DO YOU FEEL ANGER? at Circle X Theatre Company Photo
Playwright Mara Nelson–Greenberg smartly and incisively takes on the topic of male toxicity to explosive and thought-provoking results.

Rehearsals Begin For CALVIN BERGER at the Colony Theatre Photo
Rehearsals are underway for The Colony Theatre’s new production of the musical Calvin Berger. Directed by Ovation Award-winner Richard Israel with musical direction by Anthony Lucca, the cast features Corinne Miller, Jordan Quisno, Jasmine Sharma, and Frankie A. Rodriguez (star of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series on Disney+) as Calvin Berger. 

Eileen Barnett Brings LOVE IS IN THE AIR to the Monroe Forum Next Month Photo
THE MONROE FORUM presents Eileen Barnett in her Valentin’s Day Celebration “LOVE IS IN THE AIR.” – one night only on February 11 at 8pm.  Her music features songs by  Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers and Hart, Jerome Kern, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Barnes, Randy Newman, Jaques Brel and more.   

From This Author - Shari Barrett

Shari Barrett, a Los Angeles native, has been active in the theater world since the age of six - acting, singing, and dancing her way across the boards all over town. After teaching in secondary sc... (read more about this author)

Interview: Peter Noone Talks Touring with Herman's HermitsInterview: Peter Noone Talks Touring with Herman's Hermits
January 25, 2023

Herman's Hermits featuring lead singer Peter Noone formed in Manchester in 1964 and then took the world by storm during the Beatles-inspired British Invasion era. The group's success continues internationally, with the group touring to entertain not only fans from the 1960s but their children and grandchildren as well. So when I heard Herman's Hermits was set to appear at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on January 27, I decided to speak with Peter about the group's beginning and how life on the road has kept the band going for so many years.

Interview: Deborah Robin on Portraying Doris Day in DAY AFTER DAYInterview: Deborah Robin on Portraying Doris Day in DAY AFTER DAY
January 18, 2023

The DAY AFTER DAY musical shares the dramatic personal life story of Doris Day through her music, including many of her hit songs: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, Sentimental Journey, Secret Love, It’s Magic, A Guy is a Guy, and Que Sera Sera. Since her popularity turned Doris Day into America’s Sweetheart in the days before the ever-present internet and cell phones, were you ever as curious as I was as to who the real Doris Day was after the cameras stopped rolling? And what does it take to bring such a beloved and well-known icon to the stage? I decided to speak with Deborah Robin about her devotion to the star and the role to find out.

Interview: Writer/Performer Anzu Lawson on the L.A. Debut of her Solo Show THE RUBInterview: Writer/Performer Anzu Lawson on the L.A. Debut of her Solo Show THE RUB
January 17, 2023

Anzu Lawson is gearing up to debut her second one-woman show, The Rub, inspired by her 30-minute single camera comedy pilot about her life as a stand-up comic who secretly pays her bills by being every Asian mother's worst nightmare... a masseuse. I first met Anzu when she was performing as Yoko Ono during the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival, a role she inhabits with her entire body, heart and soul. So it makes perfect sense that The Rub debuts on Yoko Ono’s 90th birthday on Saturday, February 18 at 8pm as part of Whitefire Theatre's Solofest 2023. Here's my interview with her about the show.

Interview: Playwright Lester Probst on VOLUN-TEARS, A World Premiere Play About Sexual Harassment in the MilitaryInterview: Playwright Lester Probst on VOLUN-TEARS, A World Premiere Play About Sexual Harassment in the Military
December 10, 2022

ArtsUP! LA is presenting the world premiere of Volun-Tears, a powerful play by Korean War Veteran Lester Probst, based on the true experiences of women who have suffered sexual harassment and sexual abuse while serving in the United States Armed Forces, performed by U.S. Veterans. I decided to speak with Lester Probst on what inspired him to write the play and what message he hopes to instill in audience members to start the road to achieving equality within the ranks of our military, especially for women.

Interview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLESInterview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLES
December 7, 2022

The Actors' Gang is excited to present their family friendly holiday show, Shambles, an unbridled concoction of seasonal charm and sassy cunning all rolled up in a cirque-infused panto, blurring the lines between audience and performers. When I read that this immersive experience will drop theater goers into a 60's NASA holiday party complete with alien abductions, ugly Christmas sweaters, and free-flowing champagne offered as theatergoers meander through curated rooms of wonder, I knew I had to speak with the production's creator and director, Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves about his vision to bring such fun family fare to the stage.