Keeping FIT, Part 1
Reviews of the first weekend of the Festival of Independent Theatres, with entries from Churchmouse, FTP, WingSpan and One Thirty.
published Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Friday, July 13: Art and eclectic conversation, a little night music and cool breezes coming off the lake—a surreal contrast to the psychological horror and apocalyptic comedy of the 14th annual Festival of Independent Theaters‘ opening night at the at the Bath House Cultural Center. Even if it was Friday the 13th.
Churchmouse Productions: Dead of Night
After a brief introduction by Bath House director Marty Van Kleeck in her eclectic cowgirl garb, the festival launched with a stage in total darkness and the sound of a loud ticking clock. So starts Dead of Night from Kurt Kleinmann’s Churchmouse Productions, which explores the fugue state of a delusional mind. Chad Cline robustly plays the Man, recounting to an invisible interrogator a night that he says “ended rather badly.”
The staging is the star, clever and enigmatic. Cline illuminates the black stage with his iPhone as he recounts navigating an apparently powerless dark house, in pursuit of a murderous intruder that torments him. The lighting rises vaguely in the back and edges of the stage from time to time to reveal furtive figures that become more visible as the show progresses.
Of course, the only thing tormenting the Man are his own demons, a fact broadcast much too broadly and far too early in the play. His choice to head off looking for a killer in a dark creaky house is a fairly good tip-off all’s not right in the head. The Man repressed his shadow side, embodied literally by the featureless creatures in bodysuits and tight hoods played by the lithe Jeff Swearingen and Leslie Patrick, who ultimately emerge to taunt him as a deeply lacking man.
You just wished for more depth from Kleinmann’s pen, more examination of the shadow side, more hints of the origins of the Man’s rage, more of the wavering, unstable thought patterns that insanity brings. Cline was saddled with far too many declarative monologues, his tale of uncertainty told in too much of a direct and certain way. It’s a great premise—”Maybe imagination is scarier than reality,” says the Man—that’s ready to be developed. A name for the Man would be a good first step. — Amy Martin.
FTP Comedy 2012: The Last Comedy Show
FTP Comedy‘s 2012: The Last Comedy Show is improv comedy for people who don’t like improv comedy. The pace is brisk and the banter witty, even if relationship and character development is spotty. The show is carried by a varied array of strong, engaging and unique personalities, and the energy level is sustained by well-done video segues.
This was FTP Comedy’s first big foray without the strongly guiding hand of Jim Jim Kuenzer, who’s busy with a new baby. Erik Archilla crafted a tight framework with excellent use of thematic threading that improv shows often lack. The cataclysmic end attributed to the Mayan calendar is the overarching theme, with the show framed by a countdown on that fateful day. Sketches riff off newsmen, government agents and strippers investigating the impending doom.
Didi Archilla is a standout and not just by being the only woman in this incarnation of FTP. While most improv interaction moves forward, Archilla recedes, creating an odd comedic vacuum that draws you in. Brian Witkowicz excels with full-bodied characterizations, near fearless in his approach, while Clay Wheeler has nuanced moments of acting like a young Phil Hartman. Clay Yocum just eats up the stage with his bold, muscular baldness.
Another neat trick is phrases from audience suggestions early on are picked up on by members and brought back throughout the show. Snooki was a consistent presence, bringing on the apocalypse through her creepy orange general wantonness. — Amy Martin