Jay O’Berski and Jeffrey Detwiler have become the Triangle’s princes of pratfall, first for Shakespeare & Originals and now for Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern. In physical comedy, they are the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area’s equivalent of Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello (although both are imperially thin). But when it comes to hurling verbal brickbats, they most resemble the insufferably cheeky and impishly irreverent Marx Brothers. Indeed, they are consummate clowns who have put big grins on the faces of many local theatergoers.
So is also the case with Little Green Pig’s riotous rendition of Derklöwnschpankeneffekt: Two Plays for Klöwn, presented as part of Manbites Dog Theater’s “Other Voices Series.” “Out at Sea,” translated by Nicholas Bethell, and “Striptease,” translated by Lola Gruenthal, are a twin bill of cabaret-style short plays — both written in 1961 — by Polish expatriate playwright, author, journalist, and cartoonist Slawomir Mrozek (born 1930).
“Out at Sea” stars Messrs. Detwiler and O’Berski and the roly-poly comic actor Carl Martin as three men in a (life)boat who have exhausted all their provisions, and begun a debate about which one of the three — designated Fat (Martin), Medium (Detwiler), and Thin (O’Berski) — they should eat first in order to survive. The fact that the men occupy different rungs of the social ladder has some bearing in their increasing absurdist deliberations. Fat could be a literal capitalist fat cat or a gravitationally challenged commissar from Communist Poland; he is well heeled, pampered, and used to calling the shots. Medium is a cook who specializes in meat dishes, and Thin is a selfish egotist. Who will (figuratively) draw the short straw in this lifeboat lottery?
While Thin, Medium, and Fat vigorously debate who will make the ultimate sacrifice for the common good, up pops Fat’s starchy Butler (James Dymond and a persistent postlady Postlady (Drina Dunlap) in two cameo performances that heighten the hilarity of this deliciously dark comedy from the Theatre of the Absurd.
In “Striptease,” dramatist Slawomir Mrozek transforms the traditional bump-and-grind of an erotic dance into a metaphor for political and/or spiritual oppression. But there is nothing prurient about “Striptease.” At the start of the play, two men in identical business attire, carrying identical brief cases — Jay O’Berski as the passive intellectual Man I and Jeffrey Detwiler as the aggressive activist Man II — are trapped in the backroom of a nightclub by a mysterious power — ultimately embodied by a pair of giant hands designed by Chelsea Kurtzman, Alex Maness, and Stephanie Waaser and manipulated by James Dymond and Drina Dunlap. Man I and Man II’s discussions of their dilemma and their increasingly desperate measures to escape their inexplicable imprisonment provide ample fodder for the comic mills of Messrs. Detwiler and O’Berski, who act like Dancing Fools as they doff their clothing, one item, at a time, in the vain hope of appeasing their unseen tormenter. It was all great fun for the Little Green Pig’s audience last Saturday night at Manbites Dog Theater.
Director Michael O’Foghludha and choreographer Nicola Bullock whip up a pair of delicious comic soufflés. They are aided and abetted by set designer Chad Evans; lighting designer Rebecca Buck; costume designer Chelsea Kurtzman, giant hands designers Chelsea Kurtzman, Alex Maness, and Stephanie Waaser; sound designer Quran Karriem; and stage manager Jessica Flemming — whose combined efforts help make Derklöwnschpankeneffekt: Two Plays for Klöwn a must-see comedy!
SECOND OPINION: March 27th Durham, NC Indy Week preview by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3.5 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/political-satire-and-pratfalls-in-little-green-pigs-derklwnshpankeneffekt/Content?oid=3460689; March 26th Cary, NC Boom! Magazine review by Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori: http://www.boomnc.com/boom-bits-reviews-books-movies-music-misc/derklownschpankeneffect-review-of-out-at-sea-and-striptease-at-manbites-dog-theater/; March 23rd Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Larisa Mount: http://raleigh.broadwayworld.com/article/BWW-Reviews-Little-Green-Pig-Brings-Absurdism-to-the-Triangle-with-DERKLWNSCHPANKENEFFEKT-20130323; and March 22nd Durham, NC Five Points Star review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: http://thefivepointsstar.com/2013/03/22/serious-klown/.
Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern presents DERKLÖWNSCHPANKENEFFEKT: TWO PLAYS FOR KLÖWN, starring Jeffrey Detwiler, Carl Martin and Jay O’Berski, at 8:15 p.m. March 28-30 and April 4-6 at Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
TICKETS: $12 Thursdays and $17 Fridays and Saturdays, except $5 students with ID and $2 discount for seniors 62+ and active-duty military personnel.
BOX OFFICE: 919-682-3343 or http://manbitesdogtheater.tix.com/.
SHOW: http://littlegreenpig.com/?p=909 or http://manbitesdogtheater.org/2012-2013/derklownschpankeneffekt/.
VIDEO PREVIEW (by Alex Maness): http://vimeo.com/59423037. SEASON: http://littlegreenpig.com/?page_id=1007.
“Out at Sea”: http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/10007/out-at-sea (Samuel French, Inc.).
“Striptease”: http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/10008/strip-tease (Samuel French, Inc.).
The Mrozek Reader (edited by Daniel Gerould): http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Slawomir Mrozek (playwright) http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/mrozek.htm (Pegasos) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C5%82awomir_Mro%C5%BCek (Wikipedia).
Michael O’Foghludha (director): https://www.facebook.com/michael.ofoghludha (Facebook page).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Review, a FREE weekly e-mail arts newsletter. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Review.
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