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Review: CLOWNFISH at Theatre Of NOTE

Review: CLOWNFISH at Theatre Of NOTE

The show swims into Hollywood through August 6

Theatre of NOTE returns after an enforced Covid break with a world premiere of a raucous ghost story. Six friends descend upon a Colorado mountain cabin in the middle of winter for a DIY wedding as a storm descends. Chaos and insanity ensue in addition to the eternal question: What is normal?

Review: CLOWNFISH at Theatre Of NOTE
Mara Shuster-Lefkowitz and Omari Williams

Why Colorado in the mountains in the winter? The bride and groom got a good rate. Why DIY? Who knows, but at least everyone has something to do! Everyone, that is, except bridesmaid Cassie (Jamila Webb), who did not get the instructional packet and skipped the morning meeting detailing what was in the packet. (You get the sense she doesn't really care.) Erica (Susan Louise O'Connor), another bridesmaid, has recently been sprung from an institution after suffering a mental breakdown, but she seems capable, at least at making a wood chandelier (her part in the DIY, natch), while everyone tiptoes around her because, well, she was recently sprung from an institution. Meanwhile, Type-A best man Hunter (Joe Mahon) can't find his DIY place, wanting to help in any way he can, and Tod (Sean Michael Boozer) has just changed his name from Todd (it's not pronounced the same way, he'll have you know) and is there for reasons no one can ascertain at first. This motley assortment is there to celebrate the marriage of Katie (Mara Shuster-Lefkowitz), who is pretty exuberantly drunk (but it's OK: She's the bride!), and straight-arrow Jake (Omari Williams).

Things are crazy enough with that motley assortment even before they find out from Ralph (Bill Voorhees), a rando who wanders in, that the cabin they're now trapped in due to the storm was the location of a mass murder many years back. So is the place haunted, or did the wedding party simply bring along ghosts of their own?

Review: CLOWNFISH at Theatre Of NOTE
Bill Voorhees and Joe Mahon

Amy Dellagiarino's script is vivid and presents clearly delineated characters, all well rounded and dimensional. She hits the anxieties and insecurities of college friends facing the real world, how they're changing, and how they may be diverging. The character introductions are spaced and paced well so that the ensemble isn't overwhelming. We get a clear sense of them and their relationships as messy as they are.

While the show can get manic and a little shouty, director Laura Stribling guides her actors just to the edge without ever crossing into grating. Boozer and Shuster-Lefkowitz have the roles drawn in the broadest strokes yet they are always grounded and relatable. That's difficult to do. O'Connor, though, in the end, carries the show, even before the true depth of her Erica is revealed. She's got a quiet fragility that masks an even quieter strength that becomes the through line for the show, especially in her still moments. You're focused on her even when the other characters are in the middle of the action; she's that commanding.

The bi-level set by Voorhees is cozy and inviting, and the energy of the entire production is fizzy and fun, which makes the hushed ending even more powerful. Dellagiarino's script treads a fine balance between exaggerated and accessible. And in the end, the pathos that jut through the humor are jagged and piercing, leaving audiences with a lingering sense of both emptiness and hope, like a light flashed on and off in a dark room, the afterimage seared onto the memory.

CLOWNFISH is performed at Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd. through August 6. Tickets can be purchased at

Photo Credit: Brad C. Light

From This Author - Harker Jones

Harker Jones has worked in publishing as a writer, editor, and critic for 15 years. He was managing editor of Out magazine for seven years and has written two novels (including the... (read more about this author)

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