part of the 17th Annual New York International Fringe Festival
C.O.W. Theater (formerly Living Theatre)
21 Clinton St.
New York, NY
About The Show:
What happens when clowns converge on an abandoned home in suburban America and one of them has a semi-automatic weapon? In this dark comedy, set in the wasteland of foreclosed suburban housing after the Bush economic implosion, an accidental meeting, loaded with a trigger-happy rifle, touches off a chain of events that hilariously crisscross the financial crisis, professional clowning, performance theory, suburban architecture, gun control, religion, murder, substance abuse and burglary.
Written by Paul David Young
Directed by Robert Lutfy
Presented by Skylight Productions, in association with The Present Company/FringeNYC 2013
With Ryan Barry, Joel Reuben Ganz, Emily James, Marissa Molnar and Carol Lee Sirugo
'Clown Play': One of the Offbeat Treats of the New York International Fringe Festival
Thursday, August 15, 2013
We’ve barely said farewell to the New York Musical Theater Festival when who should come strolling in but the New York International Fringe Festival, with its barrage of 185 shows in 16 days in over 20 different venues and time slots.
I don’t know how many of these I’ll be getting to, but let me begin with the first one I saw. It’s called Clown Play, whose playwright Paul David Young made something of a name for himself at the 2011 Fringe with In The Summer Pavilion, a play that imagines different possible futures for three friends. That play went on to an Off Broadway run at 59East59 and has since been turned into a film, set to be released in the coming year.
Whether Clown Play will follow that route remains to be seen, but what is clear is that Mr. Young is a talented wordsmith who is able to take seemingly disparate elements and coalesce them into a logical and unexpectedly sweet play (unexpected, since a semi-automatic weapon puts in a threatening appearance from time to time).
As Clown Play opens, we are face-to-face with a woman (the highly talented Carol Lee Sirugo) who waxes philosophic. “All is silence,” she begins, before going off on a Beckett-like ramble on matters of great significance, not unlike Lucky’s speech in Waiting for Godot.
Is she insane, we wonder, or a lost soul of some sort, trapped if not in Beckett Land, then maybe in Sartre Town or Kafka Village?
We will get answers, but not right away. Instead, the scene shifts to a man and a woman, Tommy (Joel Reuben Ganz) and Nancy (Emily James), who are floundering around in the dark, much frightened and feeling at risk of personal harm from someone or something in the unknown.
Again, the feeling of dread pervades. What kind of place is this? Could these characters be dead souls drifting around in Purgatory?
And finally, we are introduced to yet another couple, Barry (Ryan Barry, a Summer Pavilion alum) and Elisa (Marissa Molnar), who have set up housekeeping in an apparently abandoned home. Now things start to feel less like a ghost story and more like an all-too-real post-apocalyptic world, something, perhaps, like the one in Jules Feiffer’s Little Murders.
Teasingly, the play rotates among these characters in short scenes that we must take in before everything begins to make sense. One of the better ones is a perverse version of the ubiquitous Christmas letter (in this case, a video), a litany of life horrors recited by Ms. Sirugo’s character.
Just when we are questioning whether all this is leading anywhere beyond the suggestive and atmospheric, the characters start to interact with one another—at first with a not-surprising degree of suspicion (hence the semi-automatic weapon), but gradually warming until they loosen up and begin to meld into a cohort resembling the Tribe from Hair, a self-made family against all expectations.
And to what do they owe this dramatic change? Why, consider the title as you leave the theater having had a surprisingly good time.
And while it is Mr. Young’s writing skill that was able to turn seemingly random scenes into a real charmer of a play, much credit must go to the cast (all of whom have impressive theater credentials, by the way), and to director Robert Lutfy.
Clown Play is a little oddball, no doubt, but the production at the COW (Celebration of Whimsy) Theater on Clinton Street in the Lower East Side is well worth putting on your Fringe list. If that part of the city not your usual theatrical habitat, consider that it is just off Houston Street and only a couple of blocks from Katz’s Delicatessen. I recommend picking up a pastrami Reuben after the show, and pondering the magic of theater while you are eating it.
The Village Voice:
Linda Leseman - August 14, 2013
"By contrast, Clown Play (at The C.O.W.), written by Paul David Young and directed by Robert Lutfy, is completely unconventional. The dark comedy begins with an existential monologue by a woman named Maria (Carol Lee Sirugo), who compares herself to “the indirect object,” the “acted-upon.” Following this, a motley crew of four burglar-clowns-turned-squatters assembles in an abandoned house. Their physical shenanigans at gunpoint are equal parts whimsy, perversion, and absurdity (several members of the cast are formally trained clowns). The script is intelligently bizarre: It’s Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects meets Marcel Marceau, and ultimately connects its disorienting components into an ode to clowning and the pain it sometimes masks."
“[Young’s] text flows easily from one difficult idea to the next (he manages at one point to question war, responsibility, and art – individually – within eight simple lines) and does so in a clever manner and oddly playful setting: clowns squatting in modern suburban America.”
“Carol Lee Sirugo as Maria is quite magical to witness.”
“The designers all deserve a great deal of credit as well for their magnificent attention to detail. Scout Isensee’s costumes range from absurdly over-the-top clown, to a clearly articulated subtlety (the intense clown gets my laughs, but the subtlety – specifically of Tommy’s costume – gets the tip of my hat). Julian Evans’ sound design and Daniel Winters’ lighting working in tandem to accent much of the slapstick is sharp and effective, beautifully in sync with one another (and executed with great care by Stage Manager Bethany Ellen Clark). “
The New York Times,
“Shows to Consider in the New York Fringe Festival”
“In his dark comedy ‘Clown Play,’ Paul David Young intriguingly combines critical elements from the horror playbook: angry clowns, semiautomatic weapons, an abandoned house in the suburbs.”
THE EASY: Clown Play
By Paul David Young; Directed by Robert Lutfy
FringeNYC, New Play Runs through 8.24.13 - C.O.W. Theater, 21 Clinton St.
by Greg Solomon on 8.13.13
BOTTOM LINE: Sometimes the best way to deal with a failing economy amongst personal and societal strife is to make a joke of it.
I went into Clown Play anticipating a dark, disturbing and potentially thought-provoking evening. It’s a rare occasion when the subversion of expectation is a welcome delight and what I encountered was just that. Indeed the treatment of ‘the financial crisis, professional clowning, performance theory, suburban architecture, gun control, religion, murder, substance abuse and burglary’ did indeed touch up on all of those issues and more, but with a degree of levity that was refreshing in the current age of sometimes cult-like protest via social media.
Clown Play alternates between two pairs of drifters trying to find a home to squat in and the monologues of the house’s owner. Tommy and Nancy (Joel Reuben Ganz and Emily James) are running away from what seems to be a dark secret in Tommy’s past. Barry (Ryan Barry) stumbles into the house with a semi-automatic and titillates the house’s current clown-fetishist squatter, Elisa (a delightful Marissa Molnar, who is exceedingly reminiscent of Parker Posey). Both couples spar, get it on, and then bump into one another post-coitus. When Elisa decides to kill Tommy for being a clown-hater (a sequence that brought to mind everything from Rodney King up to the current Zimmerman story), Tommy comes out of the closet as being a clown himself. Maria (Carol Lee Sirugo) arrives home from the ‘big house’ after murdering her ex and is at first appalled by the invaders, but eventually allows them all to stay and teach her to be a clown as well. It’s a strangely uplifting tale of misfits finding each other in a pre-post-economic apocalypse, if you will.
Paul David Young’s script is exceedingly clever, with one absolutely killer monologue for Maria in which she records a Christmas CD of her year in review -- the story of her recovery from alcoholism, falling in love with a man who drives away her children, and the death of her mother from cancer (it’s comic). Robert Lutfy’s direction is equally impressive. I found myself picking out a few sequences I’d have liked to have worked on myself back in my university days. The whole cast is pitch-perfect once one becomes attuned to the style of the piece.
To sum up, this is exactly the kind of thing theatre-goers look forward to fringe festivals for: Daring, entertaining and ultimately non-mainstream fare. Be warned there is a huge amount of sexual content (pun intended potentially), the spoilers of which I can’t even type without blushing.
(Clown Play plays at the C.O.W. Theater, 21 Clinton St., through August 24, 2013. Remaining performances are August 14th at 3PM; August 15th at 2PM; and August 24th at 9:30PM. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door and are available at fringenyc.org or by calling 866.468.7619. For more information visit clownplay.com.)
Fringe Marathon: The Spider Tops Our Roundup of 10 Shows
By Linda Leseman Wednesday, Aug 14 2013
Last weekend kicked off the 17th year of the New York International Fringe Festival (aka FringeNYC), which runs through August 25. As with any such festival, when you choose what shows to see, you’re really rolling the dice. This two-week-long feast of all things performative offers shows by 185 theater troupes and dance companies from 13 countries and 17 U.S. states. The total number of performances is an overwhelming 1,200, and it all takes place in 20 downtown Manhattan venues.
This was my first attempt to see 10 Fringe events in a little over 48 hours. (In case you’re wondering, I’m very tired, and my legs are sore.) The measure of the festival’s success is probably not how many stellar shows there are but rather the ratio of pretty good ones to godawful bores. To the credit of FringeNYC, most of the performances I saw were of the former variety, and a couple were truly outstanding.
The most important thing, which I learned immediately, is that you should never, ever, under any circumstances arrive even one minute late to these things. FringeNYC is a well-oiled machine, with none of this leisurely holding the house open for an extra 10 minutes that you find on Broadway. If you arrive late—actually, if you don’t arrive early—you are S.O.L. Take note.
My weekend of theatrical madness began, perhaps appropriately, with Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A Graphic Novel Play at The Celebration of Whimsy (or the C.O.W.). The comedy by Katie May uses familiar graphic novel clichés (like big “Pow!” sound effects for bodily contact) to tell its story of Tallman, a frustrated artist who finds a muse in a mysterious mute woman who wanders into a bar and comes home to live with him. This title character, Lily, is explained as a “trope,” ironically, by the best-friend-in-a-bar stock personality functioning as the voice of reason: A “manic pixie dream girl” is a quirky girlfriend character that one knows nothing about “outside of the relevance to the dude’s life.” Think Kate Hudson in Almost Famous. However, what seems like a script constructed of such tropes takes a surprisingly poignant turn when Lily’s origins are revealed. A Starburst wrapper serves as an unlikely metaphor for a shift in perspective that’s as revelatory to the lead character as it is to the audience.
Another piece that relies on conventional characters and situations—but forgivably so—is The Awful Truth, a ’40s-style radio play presented at The Connelly by Gotham Radio Theatre. In this campy farce, five actors take on more roles than are even listed in the program in a silly I Love Lucy-esque romp about marriage and infidelity. The sound effects are created live onstage, and the cast should be applauded for their tightness as an ensemble as well as for their individual vocal versatilities.
By contrast, Clown Play (at The C.O.W.), written by Paul David Young and directed by Robert Lutfy, is completely unconventional. The dark comedy begins with an existential monologue by a woman named Maria (Carol Lee Sirugo), who compares herself to “the indirect object,” the “acted-upon.” Following this, a motley crew of four burglar-clowns-turned-squatters assembles in an abandoned house. Their physical shenanigans at gunpoint are equal parts whimsy, perversion, and absurdity (several members of the cast are formally trained clowns). The script is intelligently bizarre: It’s Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects meets Marcel Marceau, and ultimately connects its disorienting components into an ode to clowning and the pain it sometimes masks.
Talk to Me About Shame is a . . .