BWW Review: THE BAD'UNS: CLOWN ACTS OF CONTAGION Packs a Punch With Smart, Family-Friendly Satire
As techniques to explore feminist themes go, clowns don't exactly leap to mind. But Clowns Ex Machina, the team behind The Bad'uns: Clown Acts of Contagion, makes it look like a natural choice.
It makes sense - clowns are naturally funny, allowing you to explore dark, sometimes depressing, themes with an air of levity. At one point during the show, they sing-song mime a group of women killing themselves because they're forced into prostitution by financial circumstances. Thanks to their physicality, the act gets roaring laughter.
Despite the sometimes-dark themes, the show is PG. There were a number of children in the audience, and they were laughing throughout most of the show. There are some moments with mildly suggestive language and gestures, but it's done in such a way as to go over children's heads, creating a smart show that parents can take their kids to without feeling horribly bored themselves.
The humor throughout is wacky, sinister and absurd. The troupe members are comprised of women of a wide range of ages and body types, which is nice to see, even though it's sad that it's so not the norm that I still have to comment on it.
The evening is comprised of a series of skits and interludes, using a mix of forms, including some inventive puppetry and inspiriting dance. Some of the skits use the funniest audience interaction I've ever seen in experimental theater (at one point, a clown points a finger gun at the audience and demands mints or gum). They're not taking themselves overly seriously, and laughs come easily. Much of the humor comes from their posturing as ultra-bad bad guys, in contrast to their non-threatening appearances. In some skits, they are Salem-era witches tried for crimes as heinous as gathering dandelions and elderflowers to make balms, or a Hester Prynne-style character who's been very bad and is forced to wear a scarlet "T for Tardy." At one point a clown says "Acid" threateningly, then mimes heartburn. Another clown says "stop eating dairy," starting a chant (a funny inversion, and also good advice for anyone who suffers from heartburn).
A fun evening with a feminist edge that's great for parents and children alike, The Bad'uns: Clown Acts of Contagion runs through November 17th at La MaMa's Downstairs Theatre, located at 66 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and the Bowery in New York City.
The Clowns Ex Machina all-women clown troupe includes Carla T Bosnjak, Kendall Cornell, Lena Hudson, Julie Kinkle, Michaela Lind, Lucia Rich and Virginia Venk, with help from Maggie Tully and Rachel Weekley. Performances are Thursdays - Saturdays at 7pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $25 and $20 for students and seniors (plus $1 facility fee). Purchase online at http://lamama.org or by calling 212-352-3101. For more info visit http://clownsexmachina.com.
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