OMG. What sort of comic mayhem are Jeff Swearingen’s FunHouse Theatre and Film kids up to now? The current menu for huge helpings of hiccup-inspiring hilarity kicks in with a slight one-act comedy by Woody Allen called GOD followed by some rip-snortin’, fast-paced, actually interesting improvisation work by the Fun House improv troupe, Unicorn Clearance. Breathe….
Act Unum: GOD. Zany, self-mocking, farcical, verging into highbrow commentary with a zot’s worth of lowbrow lust in a Greek toga setting, this ungodly “Tale” features as storytelling duo SNL-ready Brian Wright as the lugubrious Diabetes and 11th-grader Tex Patrello as his flamboyantly arch partner Hepatitis. Question of the half-hour: do they have a complete play, or one with no plausibly functional ending? The plot, wafer-thin, clips through at Autobahn speed, with comic delivery and timing many, many regional adult comic actors should aspire to. High school senior Laney Neumann gives a particularly delicious turn as a distracted, ditzy blonde sexpot, and Christos Kaiafas amuses verklempt as what could be described as a Woody Allen version of a leering Cheshire Cat.
Sophomore Jake Allen delivers an admirable cameo as sputtering, tongue-tied Woody Allen with notable charisma. Freshmen Jaxon Beeson and Lynley Glickler wander through as annoyingly inept Hawaiian shirt-clad tourists, for no particular reason, kind of like tourists do at Greek ruins. Doak Rapp forcibly shatters the fourth wall with faux charm, de rigueur in a Woody Allen play (look it up, ye vocabulary-challenged). Finally, clearly a Jeff Swearingen touch, an unexpected actor emerges from the audience (sitting next to this critic) to recreate aspects of a hit performance from this past summer. No spoilers here. You won’t see it coming, and I want you to be as delighted as I was by the surprise reprise. Needless to say, but I am, a Greek chorus wearing assorted, dyed to match nighties and robes provides well-earned disrespectful commentary on the ludicrous goings-on, Mighty Aphrodite-style. It’s a wry comic riff, a grand excuse to play at developing comic moments while delivering a tad of armchair philosophical social commentary as ephemeral as nitrous oxide. Director Matt Lyle, maestro of mayhem, brings it on sharp and fast with Swearingen’s polished, able crew of thespian wonders. Spontaneous laughter results. No way to avoid it.
Act Duo: Then cometh Unicorn Clearance, featuring some of the same actors plus Madeleine Norton (fresh from her energetic turn as a lovely hippy in Booker T. Washington’s Hair), Zoe Smithey (Blanche from this summer’s A Schoolbus Named Desire) Kennedy Waterman (about to play opposite Jeff Swearingen as Linda in the company’s Death of A Salesman) and Marisa Mendoza. Fast-paced and clever, the improvised interplay soars with a creative, intelligent thrust, not relying on vulgarity or trite put-downs to “amuser”. I was genuinely “amused”. ROFL.
Catch it all this final weekend in Plano, Oct. 8-10 at 7:30pm, and Saturday Oct. 10 at 2:30pm