nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
September 2, 2006
Most of the clown theatre I've been encountering lately has been very much of the adult variety: the exaggeration of the everyday that is the hallmark of the form is always in evidence, but what's exaggerated is emotional or conceptual rather than simply physical. So The Audition, my very first show at the New York Clown Theatre Festival, was something of a surprise in that it's geared rather overtly toward the kiddies. It's a fun piece, though a little rough around the edges.
The idea of The Audition is that its two characters, Jasper (Fred Collins) and The General (Luanne Dietrich), are trying out for a spot on an edition of American Idol that's searching for the world's top clowns. As the show begins, Jasper wanders, seemingly inadvertently, onto the stage; soon it's clear that the audition has begun, and he frantically locates first his partner (who makes a charming surprise entrance) and then the various assorted folderol that's needed for their act. The audition is supposedly taking place in Tokyo, which enables Jasper to do some Japanese-y double talk (almost offensive: maybe a better idea would have been to have one of the characters actually speak only Japanese if the inability to communicate is deemed important here).
The audition framework allows the performers to showcase a broad range of skills. They juggle, they do ersatz magic, they engage in lots of pratfalls; The General makes a neat balloon puppy dog and Jasper does some acrobatics that are both funny and impressively scary. Many of the bits don't quite land, however, because they don't seem to be fully perfected. For example, Jasper routs through a variety of satchels and suitcases as he looks for one prop early on, throwing stuff all over the stage as he does his frantic search. But the stuff that tumbles out of the bags isn't somehow silly enough, and there's not really enough of it, and it's coming out of too many bags to be surprising. Later in the show, an attempt at audience participation with a couple of children falls flat as well; there's no real reason for it, and The General doesn't seem to connect with the kids at all.
In the broadest sense, even, The Audition doesn't come off as fullly formed. A clown auditioning to be a clown on American Idol isn't anywhere near as funny an idea, it seems to me, as a clown auditioning to be a singer on American Idol. Collins and Dietrich, who collectively go by the name Two Too Far, may want to go back to the drawing board on this one: they've got some workable routines and ideas here, but the show isn't as effectively giddy as it could be.