If a chorus of octogenarians in clown make-up, big shoes, and terry cloth bathrobes dancing in raggle taggle unison to hip-hop music doesn’t immediately draw you into Water for Clowns, then you’re probably reading way too much political news and need to get out more. An enchanting collection of mostly unrelated vignettes – physical comedy, monologues, and music, the show is performed by a group of eight professional clowns and clown teachers, two youngsters, and Lucy, who is four legged, but every bit the comedienne. It’s simply a tonic for what ails all of us.
From Joel Jeske’s physical haikus and Dick Monday’s story about accidently jumping a freight car into the Benzedrini Brothers Circus—illustrated with pitch perfect tableau vivant by the colorful company and enacted by Mark Gindick as the young hick—to a charming pantomime with Tiffany Riley, Hilary Chaplain, Jay Stewart, and Mark Gindick, wherein suitcases carry entire environments… From chestnuts like the round-robin washing and drying of the same dish and a genuinely balletic version of diving off a chair into a paper cup of water to the hysterical conceit of a couple of Scotsmen wherein one actually IS the other’s bagpipe (you really have to see this one!) ….the show skips along, with some acts better than others but most entertaining and many priceless.
One little boy/girl-at-an-amusement-park tale helmed by Mark Gindick, necessitates the participation of an audience member. I wish I could credit the young lady who participated in the fantasy with such gung ho abandon. Two man and dog scenarios featuring Tom Doughterty are imbued with the delicacy and heart of a Chaplin film. A sweet bubble of a bit concerning purloined lunch gracefully performed by Hilary Chaplain is touching and utterly charming.
The evening is loosely looped together by its writer, director, and accomplished cast member, Dick Monday who, with his wife Tiffany Riley (deservedly the first woman clown with The Big Apple Circus in 25 years) has been running The NY Goofs Clown School since 1999. Students from the school have gone on to perform with Ringling Bros., The Big Apple Circus, Cirque du Soleil, and in theatrical companies around the country. Civilian attendees have just had a hellluva good time. Monday mimes, narrates, juggles, balances, respectably plays the saw, and moves like Fred Astaire. Lily and Chet Monday sing and vogue in the parts of his character’s children. They’re fearless and poised.
Musical choices are marvelously higgledy piggledy and apt but too loud. The rare speech was often lost.
Whether a circus fan of Emmett Kelly’s Weary Willie, or Barry Lubin’s Grandma, a film enthusiast who never tires of the visibly eloquent Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton , a theater patron who admires David Shine and Bill Irwin…imagine being close enough to witness every subtle change of expression, every nuance of movement, to see the performers play off one another, adjust and react to audience response, to watch the rescue of mishaps.“Mistakes are the gold of live performance. We are not perfect. We are human and humanity is hilarious.” Joel Jeske, clown, cast member, teacher. Imagine an evening that clears your head of everything but the innocence of absurdity sending you back out into the city with a broad grin…imagine.
Unfortunately, this time around, The Goofs played three nights. I highly recommend checking out their web site for future shows. Or perhaps registering for classes.
All photos Jim Moore – firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Mark Gindick, Evelyn Tuths, Joek Jeske, Chet Monday, Tiffany Riley, Dick Monday, Jay Stewart, Lily Monday, Hilary Chaplain- missing are Rob Lok and Tom Doughterty
2. Tiffany Riley and Dick Monday
3. Joel Jeske and Tom Doughterty
Cast: Mark Gindick, Evelyn Tuths, Joek Jeske, Chet Monday, Tiffany Riley, Dick Monday, Jay Stewart, Lily Monday, Hilary Chaplain- missing are Rob Lok and Tom Doughterty
The New York Goofs present
Water for Clowns
Written and Directed by Dick Monday
With Tiffany Riley, Hilary Chaplain, Evelyn Tuths, Lily Monday
Dick Monday, Joel Jeske, Tom Doughterty, Mark Gindick,
Rob Lok, Jay Stewart, Chet Monday
The Flea Theater
August 12, 2011