Laughing in the
face nose of the Black Plague
|Strawdog Theatre presents|
|Written by Peter Barnes
Directed by Matt Hawkins
at Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway (map)
through August 15th | tickets: $15-$20 | more info
reviewed by Katy Walsh
‘It’s easy to find someone to share your life with. What about someone to share your death?’ Serious contemplations about the fragility of life get a laugh with the addition of a clown prosthetic. Strawdog Theatre presents the remount of its successful 2009 production RED NOSES. 14th Century Europe is being plagued with death. The dying is reaching epidemic proportions. The survivors are targets for flagellant crazed religious types and victim-hunting scavengers. From this hopeless void, a joyful priest recruits individuals to fight death with humor. He forms a traveling troupe of performers to ‘ripple and spread’ amusement across the grieving countryside. Strawdog’s RED NOSES explores the humorous side of the Black Plague by adding a clown-car-filled cast, jamming it to eighties music and letting death urinate on the wall.
The show starts playfully with a game of toss. Death arrives with a neon yellow ball. The game becomes deadly. Victims spew out neon yellow barf. Game over! The dying has begun. Death doesn’t keep anyone down for long. Zombies rise, dance and sing “Only the Good Die Young.”
Under the direction of Matt Hawkins, the twenty-three cast members are lively, moving from scene to scene and role to role. They juggle balls, play instruments, and remove spittle as a tight working ensemble. It’s all about finding the comedic moment and putting a red nose on it. Shannon Hoag (Marguerite) is hilarious as the disappointed almost-raped nun. She belts out a wonderful rendition of “I don’t want to lose your love tonight.” Sarah Goeden (Bells) and Chelsea Paice (Tricycle Clown Messenger) without a word effectively amuse and communicate with ringing and expressive faces. Michael E. Smith (Pope) delivers a humorous line and attitude with ‘I don’t have to be wise just decisive.’ It’s the small touches that change dire to funny. Two amputees do a stub version of a high five. A blind man calls out a color.
Death gets his cloak caught in his suitcase. Cause of death? Talented cast injects shots of fatal humor.
‘If there is life after death, why do we have to die?’ Playwright Peter Barnes penned a tale about laughing in the face of death. To exploit the absurd, he set it in a plague killing era and added clown noses. The script could go “Patch Adams” cute as one man’s quest to bring joy to the infirmed. Strawdog wisely chooses a “Monty Python” approach with comedy influenced by pushing the funny aspect of sensitive content. Barnes’ play has a propensity to go long and tedious with some productions exceeding a three hour running time. Even with Mike Przygoda (Music Director) orchestrating the 80’s flashback with a high-energy, live soundtrack, the second act gets a little tiresome with death-defying religious undercurrents. Still, “You gotta have faith!” Strawdog’s RED NOSES is plagued with comedy for whatever ails you!
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission
FEATURING: Will Allan (Frapper), Mikala Bierma (Flagellant), Michael Dailey * (Grez), Paul Fagen (Toulon), John Ferrick * (Flote), Jessie Fisher (Flagellant), Kyle Gibson (Player), Sarah Goeden (Bells), Kyle Hamman * (Brodin), Shannon Hoag * (Margarite), Nikki Klix (Player), Anderson Lawfer * (Le Grue), Chelsea Paice (Clown), Michael Peters (Rochfort), Michaela Petro (Raven), Eric Pogrelis (Boutros Brother), Edgar Miguel Sanchez (Monselet), Matthew Sherbach (Boutros Brother), Michael E. Smith (Pope), Niccole Thurman (Player), Jeff Trainor (Player), Andrew Trygstad (Bembo), Rebekah Ward-Hays (Raven).
Creative and Technical Team
Playwright: Peter Barnes
Director: Matt Hawkins
Set Design: Nic Dimond *
Light Design: Heather Gilbert
Costume Design: Aly Renee Greaves *
Music Director: Mike Przygoda
Sound Design: Mikhail Fiksel *
Stage Manager: Clare Roche
Production Manager: Cortney Hurley
* = Strawdog company member
3 WORDS: A man with carny roots and funny without a red nose, Bill describes the show with ‘little too long.’