Presented by Theatre on Fire
Written by Adam Szymkowicz
Directed by Darren Evans
Oct. 2 – 24, 2015
Charlestown Working Theater
442 Bunker Hill St
Review by Kitty Drexel
Disclaimer: Ms. Drexel auditioned for Clown Bar and was not cast. She firmly believes that only an ass would allow something like this is taint a review.
A clown noir is a noir with clowns. Clown Bar is a noir set in a bar run by clowns. I tried telling this to my housemate the other night. He accused me of stringing random nouns together, and demanded that I make sense immediately. He was being serious, not quite as serious as mobster clowns running a legal drinking establishment known for its illegal murder activities but serious enough to turn down my offer to join me on principle. It’s a shame because Clown Bar was everything its name implied and more.
Clown Bar is the story of how Happy Mahoney (Sherwood Davis) left the clown business only to become a cop who puts clowns in jail. After the death of his brother Timmy (Macmillan Leslie), Happy visits his old stomping ground to sniff out the murderer. The evening goes from speculation to romance when he reunites with Blinky Fatale (Emma Goodman). Will Happy force big, bad boss Bobo (Jeff Gill) to show his hand? Is Twinkles (Craig Houk) happy to see you or is that a whoopie cushion in his pocket? Why doesn’t Dusty (Chris Wagner) ever stop singing? These mysteries and more are solved in Clown Bar.
There are some productions for which the removal of the 4th wall is a disaster. Clown Bar is not one of them. The cast of this production is so comfortable in their characters that the 4th wall is made pointless. There was seamless transitioning from cast only plot to audience involvement at which time audience participation isn’t so much encouraged as demanded. It was refreshing, not awkward to watch the cast make a mess of unwitting audience members too timid to run away. Shrinking violets should sit in the back under a blanket.
Playwright Adam Szymkowicz doesn’t take his play seriously but he does take his clowns’ relationships seriously. Clown Bar has all the elements of a classic noir mystery… plus clowns. There is murder in this production but its committed with tiny plastic water pistols. The many deaths read more like Paul Reubens iconic scene in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” movie than frivolous violence. There’s a steamy sex scene but it’s a 10 minute long bit involving unshorn garden vegetables, the confused but pleased bartender and sippy cups. The play is dark and creepy but no more so than any psycho party. Aside from a few visuals taken directly from Stephen King’s IT (I’m looking at you Gill), it’s mostly harmless fun.
The script is pun-laden, gag heavy, and effective yet still simple in its presentation. A warning: when the puns are good; they are very good. When they are bad; they are very, very bad. The syntax-ually faint of heart should stay home.
Just as professional clowning is not for kids, this production is not for children. At the end of the night, Clown Bar is about adults having adult relationships with other adults. There’s sexy burlesque dancing, kissing, a working bar and a lot of violence. Please leave the kiddos at home.