BWW Review: SPYMONKEY'S HYSTERIA at Straz Center For The Performing Arts
My husband loathes plays and yet I still dragged him out to Jaeb Theatre Sunday night to experience Spymonkey's Hysteria. After interviewing Toby last week, I knew it was our warped sense of humor and we'd love it. Not five minutes into the play at Klaus's unexpected greeting to Laura, he is tapping my knee mouthing, "you were right."
You can outright hate plays and yet still fall madly in love with Toby Park (Forbes Murdston), Aitor Basauri (Roger Parchment), Stephan Kreiss (Klaus) and Anne Goldmann (Laura du Lay's) crazy antics and physical comedy. This is not your normal theatre but in a good way. If The Three Stooges, Monty Python and Benny Hill did some shrooms, dropped some acid and collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock on a soap-operaesque film-noir theatrical experience, this would be that peculiar, beloved brainchild.
Directed by Cal McCrystal, I'm not giving away too much of the plot other than to say that Laura, an innocent young girl with intestinal issues, fits, and strange dreams becomes the secretary of a mysterious devilishly-handsome reclusive aristocrat Forbes (who could be Bill's stand-in from True Blood, who may or may not have a split personality) who lives with an odd butler Klaus in a remote countryside mansion with a sordid history in Northamuberlandshirehampton. After Laura's arrival, Forbes is visited by his lawyer Roger in a very bad hairpiece with a stunning piece of information. Or is it?
Hysteria breaks the fourth wall to wag a finger or stick a tongue out at the audience. It is naughtiness without being obscene, lunatic slapstick, priceless facial expressions, impeccable comedic timing, hilarious choreographed song and dance numbers, and even magic combined with expertly executed physical comedy. The plot was completely unpredictable and the foursome did everything in their power to make us both laugh and squirm in our seats.
An unexpected moment of a cell phone sounding during a passionate kissing scene caused Forbes to approach the audience and improv the line, "what is that strange mood music?" and return to the scene at hand without missing a beat. Yes, they are that good.
Klaus does sound effects for the creaking estate door opening. Why? Because he can I guess. He also plays music with wine bottles which is impressive and changes the set of the mansion right before your eyes.
The men's physical comedy interactions with Laura were outstanding and made me wonder if the four didn't have a chiropractor or massage therapist on speed dial.
An army of remote-controlled pheasants, a plethora of wagging dog tails, a horse head without the body, an interaction with live media, a cardboard car, a few familiar curse words in English and Spanish, along with visual gags in Laura's dreams like Laura hanging behind the door entryway being flung around like a rag doll made catching our breath difficult before another wave of insanity hit in Forbes' estate. A revealing dance number from Laura's subconscious shows how far the team will go for a gut-busting, side-splitting laugh and now falls under the category of things I cannot unsee. I have not laughed that hard in--- actually, I have never laughed this hard.
Drop whatever you are doing and purchase tickets to Hysteria. You will not be disappointed, especially at the unforeseen ending. This is an uproariously funny, must-see theatrical experience running through November 3. Hysteria is true to its name - utterly hysterical.
Spymonkey's Hysteria is September 19 - November 3 at Straz Center, 1010 N Macinnes Pl, Tampa. To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.strazcenter.org/Events/Straz/Shows/1920_Broadway/Spymonkey-s-Hysteria. The performance includes partial nudity, smoke, haze, a firearm and ping pong balls are fired across the stage.
Photo Credit: Jane Hobson