A Sad Carousel – Rarig Arena
I think Mom summed it up in a way Herschel Douscheberg would appreciate when she said, “A couple of fucks go a long way with me.”
Pommelhorse‘s Fringe production of A Sad Carousel is one obscene, offensive, and hilarious piece of work. If you’re easily offended, you will be. But the chief charm of this nasty little comedy is that it liberates you, giving you permission for an hour to laugh at things you should not be laughing at.
“All this time I’ve been taking spiritual advice from an Indian? Boy is my face red.”
No one emerges unscathed. Not the Fringe Festival and its button discounts. Not Southdale Mall. Not product placement and sponsorships of art. Not the space shuttle Challenger. Not the Tet Offensive. Strange fodder for comedy, you say? You’d be right. But that doesn’t make it any less amusing – despite the fact you are gasping and recoiling even as you laugh.
“Every time I hit it off with a guy it’s always, ‘Oh, I’m married!’ ‘Oh, I’m gay!’ ‘Oh, the Special Olympics are trying to kill me!'”
Herschel Douscheberg (Sam L. Landman) is the #7 insult comic in the world. But he is about to be eclipsed in the comedy galaxy by his own bumbling nephew Saul (Matthew Glover). Herschel, of course, self-involved fellow he is, is manipulating Saul to stave off the inevitable. Meanwhile, Morty Kaufmann (Peter Ooley), Herschel’s manager, wants to hitch his wagon to the star on its ascent, and puts out a contract on Herschel. Coco (Lindsey McDonald Dorsey), the friendly erotic dancer at the Airport Lounge (“Airport Lounge! Airport Lounge! Airport Lounge!”), and Rudy Boyden (Steve Lattery) – savior, or assassin? – figure into the final confrontation.
“I hear the screams of my ancestors every time I take a bite of lemon meringue.”
The use of voice-overs and flashbacks is more hilarious than I can adequately express in words. These guys know the conventions of theater and comedy, and shred them. It’s why I put them on my Top 10 list this year in the first place. As they would say, “They’re good, Tawny Kitaen good.” And their tech people deserve medals of valor, because A Sad Carousel cannot be an easy show to run, particularly with the actors in character bellowing abuse at the tech booth every five minutes.
“I’ve been through more managers than WalMart. And just like Sam Walton, I’ve buried every single corpse.”
The cast makes great use of the space, running around and using all four entrances in the Rarig Arena, and being sure to give every member of the audience something to look at at all times. The show is a marathon and the pace never flags once. The plot is a little convoluted, but not in a bad or impenetrable way. The narrative never gets in the way of the jokes, and vice versa. If the whole thing is a little on the shallow side, well, it was never really trying to be all that deep. I quote this one liberally in my reviews, “Life is a comedy to those who think, and a tragedy to those who feel.” This is a comedy. If you want depth of feeling, look elsewhere. This could have been “Death of An Insult Comic (Salesman)” but that’s not the animal this dog is hunting.
“Holy Deus Ex Machina!”
Let me just stress again that A Sad Carousel is not for the faint of heart. Everyone in the show swears like a sailor. Minorities and national tragedies/open wounds of all stripes are flogged for all the inappropriate humor they can offer. But if you’re looking for the single most politically incorrect show of the Fringe, A Sad Carousel may just be your ticket. After all, it’s about a bunch of insult comics, and the people who love (or have sex with) them. Prepare to be insulted.
Even though I probably shouldn’t have enjoyed myself, boy did I. If you’ve got a thick skin, you probably will, too.
4-1/2 stars, Very Highly Recommended
NEXT PERFORMANCE – Monday 8/9 at 5:30pm
(“Monday 5:30 is a hard slot to fuck,” despaired Herschel, so he asked us to help spread the word.)
Fringe show #15 – Saturday, 8/7 10pm