Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Perhaps, Perhaps, Quizas-- 9/23/12

Full disclosure here: I saw the 20-minute version of Gabriela Munoz' show two years ago and loved it. I also helped Ms. Munoz and Audrey Crabtree a little last year on their piece called “Flocked.” Now that the disclosures are out of the way, let me tell you how much I loved the expanded, hour-long version of “Perhaps, Perhpas...”

This show heaves with equal parts gentleness and strength. Everything is so simple, yet so lived in. A ridiculous-yet-not-to-be-trifled-with creature has staged an event in the the theatre that she hopes, beyond all reasonable possibility, will actually turn into her wedding day. It doesn't, but not, maybe for the reasons one might initially suspect. It is a journey of folly that explores the nature of...what? Relationships? Love? Love as an object? The way in which we are always projecting the desire to become a particular image of ourselves onto our partners? Yes, maybe that. And maybe also the black hole that this tendency can sometimes lead us to.

In her search for the perfect wedding day, this silent charmer with gigantic hair and a white wedding dress starts simply: a wedding path gently laid on the floor with white toilet tissue, to a squaeky-voiced self-accompaniment of the marriage march. Then onto a wedding cake that she cannot resist eating, taking more with each bite, which, of course, leads to self-consciousness and a meager attempt to hit the gym, and then, because the “gym” she imagines is right next to the cake, a return to eating even more cake. There are some beautiful images here, and the situations build simply, starting with one proposition that eventually spills over into an absurd extreme without pushing.

Then onto working the audience to find a suitor, again with the same gentleness, artistry, and integrity.

Her softness has a hard core – always giving more than it asks for. And her images echo sometimes of the kind of distilled bleakness you expect more in Beckett's “Happy Days.”

I don't want to give away too much, as you should soak her journey in yourself.

I will mention that Ms. Munoz provides an example to us all in trusting the simplicity of both her approach and her narrative. She never describes, she simply does. And she never does too much. If you come to her show expecting juggling & acrobatics, you will leave disappointed. But if you come to her show hoping to get your soul juggled in amazingly contoured routine, then you will leave as full as a gorged boa constrictor.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lauffiti - 9/19/12

Let me preface this post with a statement: This is a young a group with a lot of energy. I respect their efforts and encourage them to explore further. And I am glad they came all the way from Florida to share their work.

Now for the hard part:
There are many strands that could stay, but they are obscured sometimes by technical mistakes and sometimes by a certain lack of appetite and desperation. I think the show needs an experienced director to push each performer further (technically and emotionally) and make this group into a cohesive family with an identifiable hierarchy. As it is, these performers have little to do with one another, which keeps the show from gelling into anything that I could sink my teeth into, emotionally. Part of it is the setup: a clown, a breakdancer, and a dancer do pieces and have almost no interaction at all. It reminds me of another show with a similar setup I saw 15 years ago in Minneapolis called, “Triple Espresso” (which pays all over the place with a big rotating cast.) In that show, a mime, a sensitive lounge pianist, and an abrasive magician (played by Mark Mitten when I saw it) recount their history as a performing trio (I think—it's been a while.) That show was long on individual solos and short on comedy that grew out of the relationships, but it did hold together as a story because of the consistent relationship between the three and the emotional journey they took together. It's actually not a great model to aspire to;, as the show is a little tame; a better one would be the Dingbat Show, Chiche Capon, or any of the other successfully zany families that have graced the stage at The Brick.

A few things that I think need more work:

Costume: I do not think the costume of the clown serves him at all. I don't mean to be precious about it; clowns can get so weird about what they wear and how they choose it. However, the costume should somehow indicate ridiculousness, contradiction, naivete. This big suit on this big guy does nothing for him. It just looks like a suit. He has no relationship to it. It's not even clear that he likes it. This is not helped when he changes into jeans, a well-fitting colorful shirt, and colorful shoes. It just looks like everyday clothes.

The Clown: I am not sure this clown has arrived yet. There are a few things that work, such as the teaching moments with the whistle (although those do feel like a pale imitation of Bob Berky's use of his duck call). His walk is too cute, not vulnerable enough (and this is tough, of course, because his walk might be fine on someone else who WAS actually that naïve and cute.) For him it is a “sign” of clown, but does not feel fully lived-in. Perhaps there is someone else underneath? Someone more desperate?

The Dancer: The same could be said here. She moves very well, but the cat-lady piece goes nowhere. While technically clean, there seems to be a lack of compelling character or story: what is the character that informs the logic of this performance? Also, there is no real payoff in this bit. The magic tricks later on fare better, in terms of structure, but the character still needs work to transform it form something cute into something emotionally compelling.

The Breakdancer/Graffiti Artist: This guy has some dance chops! And the piece is cool. There is a technical problem, however, involving the engine of some of the movement. First, I think it was supposed to look like the spray paint can moved the dancer around. This did not work very convincingly. Second, the can was attached to his hand with some sort of fishing wire, and there is a bit where the can rotates around his hand. I think this is meant to look like the can is weightlessly rotating around his hand with a mind of its own. It doesn't look like that. It looks like he's swinging it around his own hand. I know this sounds nitpicky, but it seems like a lot of the choreography is built around the central illusion of the can moving the dancer, which is a GREAT idea. But it is not executed clearly here.

Logic problems and lack of dynamics deflate many of the games. For example, there is a rather long setup that involves the Clown trying to have a picnic lunch while litter keeps getting thrown behind him. Frustratedly, he finally picks up the litter, but can't manage to hold all the pieces simultaneously. So, he decides to get members from the audience to help him throw them in, in a sort of classic, “watch me as I do this, then you do it,” game. Sounds fine. Except that none of these bits are taken to their logical extremes. The Clown should ONLY go to the audience for help when he has tried every way imaginable to pick up and hold all the pieces of litter and spectacularly failed. That is a bit that could go on for ten minutes! Then, once he initiates the teaching scene with the audience members, THAT is a bit that could go on for another 10 minutes, hitting the highest highs and the lowest lows. The teaching and the subsequent frustration with an audience member who does not understand is an opportunity to push the clown's buttons and get him riled up (as in David's Shiner's classic variation on this theme), it's not funny in and of itself. This is what I mean above when I refer to things in this show feeling like “signs” of clown. The setups are right, but they are not lived-in yet. Every setup should be an opportunity to push both the dynamics of the bit – its use of space, timing, surprise, shape, etc. - and the EMOTIONAL dynamics of the clown. The real humor is to be mined there, not just in creating a scene with audience participation. The coffee cup lip-synch piece suffers from some of the same problems.

One final note: while the brick-breaking contest with the audience member was better and more lived-in than some other parts of the show, it was not handled responsibly on the night I went. Again, the setup is great, but you can't let the audience member ACTUALLY try to break a brick over his knee. That is not cool. The simple rule for the audience should be (and yes, rules are meant to be broken) that the audience wins, the clown looks more foolish that the audience member, and NO ONE GETS HURT.

I'd love to see this show again after some work with a hard-assed director who focused in clarifying the logic of the bits and pushing the emotional range of the characters.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Dingbat Show - 9/19/12

Hipster Clowns Take Control of a Theatre and S*it all over It

Let me say first that I like this show. It's not for everyone. But I liked it. I did not LOVE it. Although I did love certain parts of it.

Is this a Clown Theatre Show? Yes! But the theatre for this show should definitely include a bar with rotgut specials and a floor encrusted with years of yeast, puke, and less identifiable bodily fluids. It is big, it is cool, it is knockabout, it is at times vile.

There's a sort of “fuck you” attitude that really works for the show. Their introductory line-up is a hot mess of anti-gags – not-so-spectacular bits of acrobacie that nevertheless fit perfectly for this chaotic band of knockabout perverts. (I wonder, however, if some of the chaos could be just a BIT more polished? Sometimes the stage picture and/or the structure of the gags gets a little clouded in all the chaos.)

And what a band! A self-important Emcee in a baggy suit; a pudgy, perverted naif escapee from a 2-bit circus, in full make-up; a spitfire younger sister in a poofy skirt always challenged to hold her own with her dumber brothers; and a white-faced Shakespearean fish out of water who is the most naïve of all. It's definitely a family, one firmly rooted in Rabelaisian grotesquerie and chaos. I like its dynamic. I love the way the brothers greet each other with a mimed splooge ritual. I love the way Tina masquerades as Pedro, the mysongynistic Mexican, in order to be one of the guys.

I think the lynchpin that keeps this family connected with the audience is the Shakespearean clown. In the midst of all the chaos and convex ribaldry (that word was invented for a show like this), it sometimes only those sad, confused eyes that keep an open window to the audience. This is a compliment both to the performer and to the company, who were smart enough to utilize his talents in this way.

It is a smart show. Or at least a “smart-ass” show. My biggest criticism about would be that it is sometimes a little too smart, a little too ironically detached, a little too tongue-in-cheek. There is a premise here about the clowns' mother having just died, which bookends the show. It is largely throwaway, engendering neither pathos nor interest, at least in me. How much more interesting would it be if these disgusting fools actually had a mother whose recent death they mourned? That's a hell of a way to start a clown show, but this family could do it, taking us on a journey with more flavors of the emotional spectrum.

This piece is recommended highly for those who like shows with big, sweaty balls, mostly metaphorically speaking.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Chain of Fools

Chain of Fools – 9/19/12

Hats off to Trav SD for bringing a tiny bit of history to the festival. Trav took us on a rapid-fire tour of some of the clowns of silent film, famous and obscure. It's interesting to take a stop-off at the early 1900's and get snapshot of the sketches, themes, characters, and structures that continue to swim in the blood of the clown/comedy performer. As Trav pointed out, those roots go back more than a couple of millennia. Remember that the next time your judgmental uncle or former theatre professor asks you, “when you gonna quit screwing around and get a real job/acting gig?” You tell that person, “listen, buddy! Screwing around is a time-honored tradition! It's older than the Internet! It's older than the prose novel! It's older than Christianity! It's older than Aristotle's Poetics! It's probably only slightly younger than screwing!”

In the Boudoir

"In the Boudoir" – Summer Shapiro – 9/16/12

I was a big fan of the last creation of Summer Shapiro I saw, a wonderful duet with the talented Peter Musante, called “Legs & All.” That piece had one foot planted in the world of the clown and the other just as firmly in a world that felt like “movement theatre.” The result was a moving and funny piece about relationships and love.

“In the Boudoir,” did not disappoint. A solo piece about play, fantasy, and love, Ms. Shapiro showed an even more refined sense of physical and emotional artistry. It's not quite as abstract as “Legs & All,” the bits being more familiar Clown setups that increase in scope as the show goes on. But they are played with a sense of precision & integrity that captivates.

A good example is the opening sequence, played to a swinging version of “Puttin' on the Ritz.” Part dance, part numero, part setup for many of the bits that follow, Ms. Shapiro moves through the piece with concentration of a wild animal – singular in purpose but occasionally distractible. And in the vacillation between those two states we see tremendous vulnerability. That is a big compliment. She gets the vulnerability just right: not from apologizing or shyness, but from commitment and desperation combined with great control. She was so good that, as I watched, I completely forgot the piece was choreographed to accompanying music.

I could go on about what a pleasure it is to watch Ms. Shapiro work, but you'll see what I mean if you get to her show on the 27th. Suffice it to say, she performs with the precision of a juggler, the athleticism of a dancer, the sense of play of a young child.

And there is good structural work here, too. While the bits in the show are more traditionally “Clown,” they are organized in an arc, starting the show with the exploration of the self, followed with a developing ownership of the space, bringing an audience members into the space, and culminating in a scene where she has gotten a little too comfortable manipulating people in the space and risks some serious consequences.

I offer two small questions, one performative and one more about structure.

On the performative side, I wonder if this clown has yet found its voice. I don't mean in some esoteric way. I mean her actual voice. Her relationship to the audience, in terms of winks, grunts, small gestures is so present and so perfectly fits the world. But those few moments where voice is actually used to make words, something feels lacking, deflating. Its a small detail, but worth mentioning because so much of the performance is spot-on.

A larger question is a structural one, related to the clown's emotional arc: what change (if any), does this clown undergo in this piece? I am not arguing for some kind of trad dramatic ending, or some moral lesson, or anything else as aesthetically crass. And I'm not arguing for a trad dramatic structure, like some Arthur Miller play. Comedic structure, especially clown pieces, are often circular in nature. But that does not mean that the piece should be flat. Circular structure is about arriving back at the beginning after going as far up an down as possible.

In the piece's current iteration, there is a very strong sense of engagement throughout, but the stakes do not seem to get particularly higher as we move through it. This makes the ending a little unsatisfying.

SPOILER ALERT (don't read past this if you're planning on seeing it!): It's interesting to setup a duel between two suitors. Even more interesting to have a ricochet mortally wound you in the process. EVEN MORE interesting to see you have BOTH kiss you as a final gift to you before dying. But some little part of me, for a small moment, has to BELIEVE that you ACTUALLY were shot, and this REALLY is your dying wish. I think all the structural pieces are there for the arc of this clown to be rendered visible, but I think the stakes have to get higher, allowing the emotional range to go both higher and lower, especially as we reach the ending.


Friday, September 24, 2010

9/12/10 – The Wow Show with Special Guests, Send in the Angels – about building bridges and where to stand on them...

Before The Wow Show started, the audience was graced with a visit from the two angels of Send in the Angels.  It was a short numero, but well worth it.  There is something spot-on about these two.  They are gentle, strange, naïve.  There is also something foreboding about them, like they might at any moment pull out large stiletto knives and stab us.  (They did not.)  Their games were simple but sometimes elusive, enigmatic, maintaining coherence through their strong relationship.  The characters reminded me of some of the clowns I've seen and enjoyed very much from the Russian company, Litsedei:  gentle characters played with a very strong sense of integrity who, on the clown continuum from “jokester next door” to “visitor from beyond”, are very much the latter.  They were strange and delightful.      

And then on to The Wow Show, which was a very different treat for the audience.  This is a show for children in which a lovable man-child uses a number of dramatic conceits to showcase his variety skills.  First, he discovers a number of objects in the space, including his hat.  Then he finds a list telling him to clean up his mess.  Through the clean-up process we go through a sort of “greatest hits” of variety acts: a few hat tricks, some ball juggling, devil sticks, club juggling, and cigar boxes. 

The premise works this way:  Enzo (the clown) picks up an object, realizes its trick potential, does a few tricks, and then tosses the object into a rubbish bin.  This is OK as a premise, if a little repetitive.  This first half of the show ends abruptly when Enzo decides that the cleanup is taking too long and clumsily piles all of the collected objects upstage right.  Again, that's OK as a solution, but it very unsatisfying, like the entire premise of the cleanup was just a cheap ruse.  On a structural level, one could say that is appropriate.  The cleanup IS just a structural provocation for the clown to get his groove on.  However, it is a provocation for the CLOWN to get his groove on, not the just the variety performer.  If the dramatic premise really is nothing, then take the nose off.  If the show is to be a clown show, then we have to have the cooperation of two worlds simultaneously: the fierce pursuit  virtuosic feats and compelling structure, and also the fierce pursuit of the clown in his given circumstances.

Enzo starts off the show nicely with a gentle sense of discovery, marvelling at the space, the audience, his own hat, the skills he discovers, only being able to muster a drawn-out, “wow!” in many instances.  But that character is shattered by the borderline disrespect he pays his objects once he's completed his tricks and decides to move on to his next structural checkpoint.  It feels dramatically inconsistent. 

The second part of the show is sort of a kids' version of the David Shiner “Photographer” bit from Fool Moon.  (In mentioning Shiner, I am not accusing Enzo of plagiarism, or lack of originality—this is his bit—I merely use Shiner as a  reference.)   Enzo's version has child audience volunteers playing princes and princesses on a quest.  It's a cute bit, and the performer obviously has logged a lot of time working with young children.  However, again I found Enzo's character a bit dramatically inconsistent.  He has too many one-off jokes for the adults that break his character, like we can see the performer winking behind the clown to the parents, going, “I know this is stupid, but hey, they're kids.”  Maybe that's a bit harsh, but somehow Enzo's texts, beyond his very nice, “wow”, seem unsupported.  Sometimes worse, they seem like a disrespect for the premise he sets up, much like his disrespect for his objects.  Once or twice, an uncomfortable image of a carnie, saying, “hi, boys and girls,” in one breath, and taking a piss in the next, popped into my head.  Not that that would be a bad premise!  It would be a great premise for an adult show, in the fine tradition of Bob Newhart's Uncle Freddie Show sketch, or the disgruntled Santa in the Jean Sheppard's A Christmas Story, or Billy Bob Thornton's Bad Santa.  But in order to make this structure work, Enzo would have to go a lot farther, get a lot nastier, and that probably would  put an NC-17 rating on his show. As it is, the one liners do not drive us into exquisite grotesque.  Rather, they just deflate the established world. 

Comparing these two shows brings me to a thought about bridges between the clown and the audience.   The first few minutes of any show are alienating, as the audience acclimates itself to the world of the particular performance.  A distance exists between the two parties.  The connexion between those parties is like a bridge.  The performer has a choice in how far s/he chooses to walk out on to the bridge in order establish a connexion.  But distance is not the only factor.  The performer can also wave from the far side of the bridge, in order to get the audience's attention and slowly beckon them over.    Walking out on the bridge, three quarters of the way towards the audience is a very convex, aggressive choice.  Standing one's ground and inviting people over, or being compelling enough to get them to come over, is a very concave choice.  Both can work in the appropriate context. In the case of Send in the Angels, the clowns are very concave.  They evoke a world from beyond and beckon us to it.  In The Wow Show's case (and this is what was so frustrating about it), Enzo the clown starts off with a relatively concave choice, evoking a gentle world of discovery.  But just as he gets us there, he moves his position on the bridge and brings us back closer to where we were when we walked in.  A lot of this move, I think, is unintentional, and has to do with a certain lack of care for the clown world he so meticulously established.  I think the kids enjoyed both shows, but (and this is presumptuous as Hell) I think the angels will stick longer in their minds.        

Sunday, September 12, 2010

9/10/2010 – Cirkus Luna

The premise is great!  A goofball circus from parts-unknown blows into town for their US debut, and proceeds to fail miserably in every conceivable way.  I have done two shows using this premise.  The first one, The Extreme Monster Mask Rally, a goofball circus where all the acts were creatures wearing Basel carnival masks who also somehow played live music, was quite possibly the worst show I have ever been (partly) responsible for.  The best thing that came out of that show was the fact that a reviewer from Paper Magazine came one night, but because he was the only one who showed up, we sent him away.  This saves me from having this miserable failure of a show documented in any sort of publication, but trust me, it was bad.  You can ask Audrey Crabtree.  She tekked the show.  Or ask Eric Davis or Nick Trotter.  They were in it. 

Cirkus Luna was not as bad as that show.   In it, a band of  ridiculously clad buck-toothed (all wearing identical Bubba Teeth prostheses—the same ones they wear for their signature Fools Mass), speaking in some unidentifiable Slavic pidgin English perform a series of stupid tricks stupidly.  From the description thus far, if you know me, you might think this is right up my alley.  And I wanted to like it.  I desperately did.  And I did laugh at a few things.  But I was also offended, mostly aesthetically.  I am not sure if this was supposed to be a bouffon show or a clown show.  It was neither, although it contained semiotic signs of both.   

First, just one little pet peeve.  A central premise of the show is that these people are from elsewhere.  They are “other”.  In this case, they seem to be from some Slavic country that is backward, unhip, naïve, stupid, cretinous, full of stage fright, clumsy, and apparently bereft of orthodontists or toothbrushes.  This is an old trope.  We used to see it in the Wendy's commercials in the 80's, which were funny.    We saw it with Robert Smigel's bad imitations of Boris Yeltsin on Conan in the 90's.  (Also funny.)  But those two cases work for different reasons.  The Wendy's spots worked because they were one-offs: 30-second jokes used to sell hamburgers.  Smigel's short sketches worked because behind the seeming incompetence and alcoholism of the Yelstin he played was a virtuouso comedian that boiled over into the scene.  More recently Sacha Baron Cohen treaded into these chauvniistic waters with Borat, a sort of backward buffoon from Kazakhstan (not a Slav, but from a former Soviet country.)  And while Borat makes me bristle a bit when he is in Kazakhstan, his act makes complete sense in America, as if he is saying, “you think Borat is an asshole?  Look at all these 'normal' people around him who are even bigger assholes?”  Wendy's succeeds because it is short.  Smigel succeeds because he makes Yeltsin merely a current events premise for great play.  Baron Cohen succeeds because, as a sort of filmic buffoon, he shows us that WE are the real clowns. 

Cirkus Luna succeeds in none of those ways.  It seems to use Slavs as some sort of fall guy, as a reason to act stupidly and without redemption.  It's like a bad black-faced minstrel show, where ineptitude is framed as funny simply because it's done by people playing negroes.  (I have a suspicion that successful minstrel shows were better than this, hence their popularity, but never having seen one, I can only speculate.)    I am a Slav – part Polish, part Ukrainian, part Russified Lithuanian, part Russified Jew – and I speak my mother's maiden tongue, Russian. And I fully admit that there are many funny things about our culture, in terms of the way it manifests its own brand of global “hip” culture.  (Just watch some Russian music videos sometime.)  But I'm a little offended at the taking hostage of my people so you can play morons.  This show is like one long pollack joke, but it is worse, because at least in the telling of the pollack joke, it is mediated through a joke teller, who may be able to guide you to the core funny of the misunderstanding that really has nothing to do with being Polish.  Not that I am a big fan of pollack jokes or elephant (i.e. African American) jokes, or jokes on any ethnicity, but in the best case scenario the use of the word pollack is merely an introduction, a conditioning element that readies us to hear about a funny situation that would be funny if it happened to anyone.  This show was more like the pollack joke told in Raising Arizona, (I'm paraphrasing), “how come it takes 5 Polish people to screw in a light bulb?  Cuz they're so stupid!” 

You wanna make fun of Slavs?  Go for it!  But why don't you start by doing some research at Tatiana in Brighton Beach, or at a casino in Moscow, or a nightclub in Vilnius.  And once you've gotten those types down, how are you going to show us that THEY are US?   

But enough about being personally offended.  Let's get to the aesthetics.  A great attempt has been made in this show to structure episodes of failure.  It succeeds.  The tricks are stupid and banal.  A great attempt has also been made create a company of idiots who will continue no matter what.  It succeeds.  But here is the problem: why do they continue?  We have a troupe of incredibly fearful proto-clowns, with almost no personality of their own, try and flail, and fail, at all times prodded by a smiling, bucked-toothed ringmaster.  They have no joy, only fear and suffering.  I began to wonder, was this on purpose?  Am I supposed to think that there is a firing squad of FSB, or Lukashenko-sponsored agents standing behind the curtains, waiting to shoot them if the audience does not clap loudly enough?  If this was the premise (and an interesting premise it would be), it should have been driven much further.  

There are even structured flops, but they yield nothing.  In short, these clowns have no personality.  They follow orders, but they do not express desires or wants, only abject shame.  In this steel trap of a structure, no one is allowed to breathe, to express themselves, to have a victory.  They try very little and fail a lot, but never develop relationships with each other.  There is no change, or even challenge, to hierarchy.  It is as if this show has set out to impersonate Stalinism itself, an arguably humorless project.   It is odd to see this from a self-professed adherent to Jerzy Grotowski, as director/Ringmaster Matt Mittler describes himself (after all, the history of art in the Soviet Union, is, in part, a history of subversion, of subtly, sometimes humorously, raging against the machine.)   But maybe there's the rub.  I saw Grotowski speak in Paris in 1997, and one thing he was short on was humor.  And these pitiful beings of The Realm of Suffering did make me think of descriptions of Grotowski's characters from The Constant Prince, but not in a good way.

From a technical standpoint, there are plenty of shout-outs to clown structures: lining up, group activities, repeated patterns, but there are no clowns to fill them.  There is no joy, no hope, too much flailing, not enough precision, and not enough eyes.  It is as if the acts and the failures are “signed” but they are not shared.  This is true of  most of the pieces, such as the water ballet, the human cannonball, and the I-don't-know-how-many-times-but-it-was-too-many circular march-while-singing-an-unidentifiable-anthem.

One bright spot was the moment when the clown big clown, Boron, attempted to walk the “tight rope” (really just a piece of cloth on the floor.)  He succeeds in walking it where others have failed, but every step brings more terror, until he is left a crumbled mess, blubbering into the ringmaster's arms.  This was well played.  It also opened up a question about the relationship of the clowns to the ringmaster: is there some sort of EST, or guru groupthink going on?  That could have worked as a premise to help define these characters, but this was the only moment. 

Also, the group belly-flopping at the end of the water ballet made for a nice moment.  For one of the few times in the show, we saw the clowns succeed in making a beautiful, ridiculous image. 

The encore – Riverdance

Get rid of the intro.  Whatever you have done to this poor woman who introduces this act and some others, stop it.  It's like watching a person who hasn't eaten in ten years try to recite a Robert Frost poem while passing a violin she ate yesterday.  Have her do something else.  She's obviously a good performer.  Give her character something that gives her joy, despite her ridiculousness.

A great moment was missed in the Riverdance numero.  For the first time, the four clowns arrived and seemed to express some ridiculous hope and individuality.  And they were charming in their dances.  This was all eclipsed by Mr. Mittler's entrance, which drove things (yet again) over the top and into poorly executed camp. 

As I quoted my teacher, Bob, in my last post, “start simply.”  Sans teeth.  Sans accents. Sans Cirkus.  It's enough of a brilliant feat to have a company of six clowns just line-up in the right place.  That can be a 10-minute piece!  So much about character and relationship can be revealed.  This is what I like so much about rehearsing in looped routines. Simple structures may not be smart, but they can allow one to go deeper.  And after the depths have been plumbed, you can cleverly put them into situations.