Last Saturday night, while the streets were lined with the stench of stale beer and the remains of Kelly green party favors, something magical was taking place in the East Village where a crowd of people were crammed tightly into a small, dark space. Most sat, a few stood. Songs of the old school variety were sung; the Vaudeville love that harked back to the soft croon of Cole Porter, a smiling face, performing a song rather than simply blasting it. Beyond that… People were laughing… AND NO ONE WAS DRUNK! La MaMa, the East Village mecca of experimental theatre, is celebrating its 50th year of staging wonderful eccentricities. That Beautiful Laugh, a clown show, gives a youthful spirit to this golden anniversary.
Directed by Obie Award Winner Orlando Pabotoy, That Beautiful Laugh explores the world of laughter. Three clowns, played by Alan Tudyk, Carlton Ward and Julia Ogilvie are brought on stage to teach a tiny red egg about the joys of the world through short vignettes that roil belly-thumping laughs from the audience and cast alike. The cast fully embraces the practices of clowning to its fullest, with Tudyk playing the ring-leader of the group, Ward playing a somewhat demented caricature and Ogilvie taking the role of the the outgoing cutesie one. Together, they take the egg through the gritty city, with a puppet show that harks back to the dirty world of “Avenue Q.” They perform strange tricks to impress the egg (you’ll be shocked what Ward can do with a clothes hanger). and they teach the bird about love and sharing. It seemed appropriate that the show debuted last weekend, given the New York City half marathon was Sunday. The physical energy exerted by the actors in the play is nothing short of a theatrical marathon. They run around the theatre, jump on the walls, wrestle and dance (on stilts).
The show marks the debut of The Artigiani Troupe, and the work developed by Pabotoy and his five-year-old son, based on stories the two of them formed before the young’n drifted off to the delirious world of dreams. While the story is rooted in the simple joy of laughter, that concept obviously expands by the end of the show and informs the audience to slow down a bit, and enjoy all of the things we now hold as everyday mediocrities. Sunshine. Blooming trees. Bees buzzing, not stinging. In it’s innocence it rejuvenates the secret nature of Manhattan. I found myself mesmerized watching the show; an inescapable smile on my face, as I reminisced over how sad and wonderful it all was. Wonderful that an art form like clowning can still rile so much happiness in people of all ages. Sad, because out on the streets so many people were boozing up in bright green, completely unaware that just a few blocks away magic was being created in a small dark space, for a roomful of people.
“That Beautiful Laugh,” runs until March 25th at The Club at La Mama (74 E. 4th st. Btw Bowery and 2nd Ave). Tickets are $18 and $13 for students and seniors. For more info click here.
Trackback from your site.