On Stage

Clown Bar

No rules, no problem

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I’m of the opinion that clowns are creepy.

If you don’t agree with me, read or watch the miniseries version of Stephen King’s It and meet the predatory life form going by the name of Pennywhistle the Dancing Clown. Or recall that serial killer John Wayne Gacy was also known as the “Killer Clown” due to the fact that he was known to have worked kids’ parties dressed in face paint and a big red nose. Hell, even Krusty the Clown on The Simpsons isn’t a character most people would care to run into in a dark alley.

Which brings me to Clown Bar, iDiOM Theater’s first mainstage production of the season. Written by New York City-based playwright Adam Szymkowicz, the noir-ish murder mystery focuses on a former clown named Happy Mahoney who left the world of funny business to become a cop. When his younger brother Timmy is killed, Happy returns to his former watering hole to suss out whodunit.

On opening night of Clown Bar, it was soon evident that director Glenn Hergenhahn-Zhao spent a lot of time making sure the clowns represented onstage weren’t simply caricatures of those that have come before them.

That said, they’re also not a group you’d consider hiring for your 10-year-old’s birthday celebration. Green-haired barkeep Petunia (Cass Murphy) gives new meaning to the words “lewd” and “lascivious,” while Shotgun (Pat Owen-Kachikis) doesn’t hesitate to use what’s in his oversized trousers—and there’s a lot in there—to intimidate those around him.

Additionally, when straight-faced Giggles (Ann Shannon) says “there are no rules in a clown bar,” you believe her. And when the sly Twinkles (Jeff Braswell) is behind the counter, those on the other side never know what’s going to turn up in their glasses—could be a banana, could be something that is potentially harmful to humans.

At the mic is Dusty (Wes Davis), a sad clown with blue hair who sings blue songs. There’s also a blood-splattered clown named Popo (Anna Mostovetsky) who will likely haunt your nightmares, the vampish Blinky Fatale (Shu-Ling Hergenhahn-Zhao), and the kingpin of the organized crime clown unit, Bobo (Daniel Ruiz).

It’s not a surprise to say that one or more of the aforementioned clowns is also a killer.

Via flashbacks, the audience also meets Timmy (Bennett Williamson), and learns more about what drove Happy (Ron Warner) away from the bar—and the clown cabal—in the first place.

Throughout, musicians Bill MacDonough, Jonathan Sherman, and Brendan Labotz help bring the story to life. And despite the spooky subject matter and the body count, there’s a whole lot of life to be found in Clown Bar.

In addition to the music, audiences will find themselves surrounded by a vast array of color—whether it’s in the form of costumes or language. They will discover more about what it means when clowns love and lose each other. They will laugh, and gasp, and maybe recoil a little bit. They may become aroused, and will most definitely become interested in what’s happening around them. Finally, they will discover what I’ve always known—that clowns, despite their big smiles, are more than a little creepy.

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