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THEATER | Brouhaha Comedy Festival at the Southern Theater: Warm whimsy in the middle of winter
On Sunday, I caught the three last shows in the Brouhaha Comedy Festival, a new weeklong event featuring six short comedic theater pieces at the Southern Theater. Whimsy was the dominant tone among the three pieces I saw, all of which were polished and enjoyable excursions into the lighter side of physical theater.
First came The Art of Seduction, created by Kimberly and Sara Richardson—they bill themselves as the Richardson "Sisters" with quotation marks, insofar as they are not actually related—and performed with Zachary Humes. The piece had an awkward but sweet couple fumbling their way from flirtation to consummation, with both male and female roles alternating among the three performers. While all three performers were entertaining, Kimberly Richardson was the standout, demonstrating a great capacity for the kind of straight-faced absurdity that seems to be a particular specialty of Bedlam Theatre regulars like Jon Mac Cole, Carly Wicks, and Alberta Mirais. A highlight of Seduction had Humes unleashing the elements on Kimberly Richardson's insufficient umbrella as she sang haltingly about her woes. The piece closed with a rendition of the R&B classic "Cry to Me," delivered by Sara Richardson as Kimberly Richardson plucked at a violin. Sara Richardson nailed the vocal with power and precision, and it was a wonderful moment—it's just wasn't, well, funny.
[Something clever goes here.], presented by Joanna Harmon and Ally Carey, also featured popular music rearranged and performed live, in this case incorporated into a story about the staging of a grand opera. Appropriating the songs of Lady Gaga and Ke$ha into indie theater doesn't score you any points for originality—in fact, last year I saw Mad King Thomas dance to "Tik Tok" on the very same stage—but Something clever scored (so to speak) in plenty of other departments. Harmon, her hair up in a mad ponytailed mess, set the tone with a highwire performance balancing coquettishness and fury, but ultimately the show belonged to the horniest of the horny: Isabel Nelson as Harmon's jealous personal assistant, and Anna Reichert and Ben Gansky as gleefully canoodling servants. The set and costumes (no set designer or costume designer are credited) were gorgeous, emphasizing black outlines on white shapes; many of the props were made of cardboard, giving the production a nice paper-doll aesthetic.
The final show I saw was Igloo Glue, created and performed by Sarah Agnew, Jim Lichtscheidl, and Eriq Nelson with Brenna Pileggi. The theme of igloo-building—introduced by Pileggi as a charmingly exasperated substitute teacher—served as a simple frame and excuse for a series of sketches featuring clever physical humor and clownish improv-style interactions. Agnew, Lichtscheidl, and Nelson are longtime pros at this sort of thing, and Igloo Glue was by far the most laugh-out-loud funny of the three pieces I saw. Vaudeville has a long history at the Southern, and Igloo Glue proudly carried that torch. Of course you don't normally want to be carrying a torch around large ice formations—but then, unlike the glaciers in Igloo Glue, most large ice formations aren't carnivorous.
©2011 Jay Gabler