Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review: Laughter and Learning in Four Clowns Jr.'s Somewhere Like Earth

Jennifer Carroll (in green), Julia Davis (in white), Amir Levi (in blue) and Dave Honigman
 as Tom the Clown Visitor (front), Photos by Andrew Eiden.

Four Clowns Jr.’s foursome packs a lot of punch into its 45-minute original family show about one clown’s journey to a planet “somewhere like earth.” This is pure interactive fun - the kind you can have while sitting in your seat without worrying you’ll be dragged up onstage to suffer some horrifying humiliation at the hands of clowns. The kids in the audience were thoroughly engaged and even I found myself wanting to yell out answers to questions the characters would ponder as part of their theatrical journey. Throw in a little music and plenty of pratfalls, and you’ve got a perfectly delightful entertainment for both children and adults alike.

After Tom crashes his space ship and meets the Guardians of Air, Water and Land, he learns that there is no excuse for planet abuse, even if you do it unintentionally. The elemental caretakers teach him that we all have a responsibility to take care of the environment and that we need to be conscious of the impact we have on each other. It’s a lesson kids resonate with immediately and a good reminder for the adults that an important principle simply stated can be more effective than all the pie charts and graphs and speeches put together. If only all of life’s lessons were taught in such an upbeat, appealing way.

Though it’s a very collaborative effort, much of the show’s success rests with Dave Honigman who plays Tom. Bright-eyed and boldly energetic, he brings a childlike innocence to the role that makes him likeable and extremely fun to watch. Amir Levi (Guardian of Water) is one part drama queen and two parts Norma Desmond in shimmering blue spandex and a rain cloud enhanced turban. Better pay attention or you’ll be the object of his hilarious stink eye if you don’t participate in making the sound of the rain to his liking.

Earthy Jennifer Carroll (terrific as Bertha, Guardian of Land) shows Tom how to till the soil to make a plant grow and sets up a series of puns that are good for more than a few groans while Julia Davis (Guardian of Air) thinks that everything Tom does is wonderful because he’s pretty (her favorite word). A little slip of a ballerina, she is as cool and airy as Davis is grounded, and together with Levi, they make a trio of planetary protectors who offer up some wonderfully wacky moments. Each Guardian is certain that his or her element is the best but by the end of the show, they, as well as Tom, will find that working together is the only way to truly accomplish your goals and be happy.

Mike Funt’s writing is full of clever turns of phrases and cute names that create a fresh sense of wonder in the very sound of the play. From trees renamed tallees to half eaten apples called apple-y core-ys, the new friends go on a “safari sagoodi” to introduce Tom to the planet, walkabout style. Director Turner Munch keeps the pacing quick and clean with a nice balance of audience participation and onstage interaction. The only muddled moment came at the very end of the play when the lights dimmed to silhouette the final pose but the audience wasn’t sure the play was over. Thats easy enough to fix however and may simply have been a result of it being the opening performance.

Once it closes, Somewhere Like Earth is set to tour, but you can see it this weekend during one of its two final performances at the Attic Theatre/Imaginese Festival. And you should. Its fun with a capital F and worth taking a break from the holiday hustle and bustle to have a few laughs. The cast meets the audience in the lobby for picture-taking after each show so bring your camera.

Four Clowns Jr.s Somewhere Like Earth
Now through December 15, 2013 
Written by Mike Funt
Directed by Turner Munch
Imaginese Festival at the Attic Theatre
5429 W. Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Tickets: $10 for adults; $5 for children
www.fourclowns.org or http://bit.ly/1e8qAzW 

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