“Dying is easy,” went the famous (and quite possibly apocryphal) last words of the famous actor. “Comedy is hard.”
Indeed, and if you want to glean a sense of just how difficult stage comedy can be to pull off, check out Crashing The Party (at Mixed Blood Theatre, through March 4). This zestfully bizarre but ultimately less-than-wonderful play is a farce and uses a machine gun approach to comedy. It shoots gags out with scattershot fervor, the hope being that even if only 50% land the audience will be laughing too hard to groan at the jokes that fall flat. Unfortunately, with this play, a 50% success rate is an impossible dream.
Josh Tobiessen‘s play is almost too silly to summarize: it’s patriarch David’s birthday. David zips in, announces that he is retiring and has purchased two tickets to Morocco – departing in three hours. As he wolfs David Jr.’s brittle SO Britney’s celebratory dinner, Officer Franco, pecs bursting out of his form-fitted uniform, arrives. He invites himself to dinner. Eleanor, sexy accountant, shows up and informs everyone that Sr. has been engaging in some highly fraudulent hanky-panky. Agent Grant, shotgun-wielding FBI agent, leading a pack of ravenous TV reporters, arrives and reiterates this. Meanwhile, David’s sons wrestle, the winner to get control of the multi-million dollar corporation. To top it all, Officer Franco turns out to be a…
All right, all right. I’ll stop. You get the idea. Director Sarah Rasmussen, has assembled a stellar cast for Crashing The Party and keeps the proceedings zipping along. But there are way too many yuk-free moments and we have way too much opportunity to contemplate the pointless play.
Sally Wingert leads the cast, playing Mom with a sweet and smiling vacuousness that delights. Morocco in 3 hours? FBI breathing down our necks? Lovely. As Sr., Joe Minjares keeps the energy level high, moving the play forward by pure force of will. He gobbles Britney’s squash soup with amazing gusto. I was quite taken by Rolando Martinez as the unflappably rotund stay-at-home son. As the hapless law enforcement professionals Ansa Akyea and Mo Perry are wonderful. Rose Le Tran plays the shrill Britney beautifully. Laura Esposito and Ricardo Vázquez are lovely as well.
Part of my problem is that I expect more substance from Mixed Blood. When I compare this play to the intense Agnes Under The Big Top or to the passionate disability triptych produced a few months ago, I find myself sorely disappointed. Were I seeing this piece at Old Log or Chanhassen, I might be more positive. Still, it is well done and if nicely directed but unchallenging plays are your cup o’ tea, well, Crashing The Party might very well work for you.
For more information about John Olive please visit his website.