Hoopla Train: goofy, beery fun

Sod House Theater. Various venues; go to sodhousetheater.org for info, through Oct 15

The ensemble of HOOPLA TRAIN. Photo by John Schaidler.

In order to enjoy the appealing Hoopla Train (Sod House Theater, various venues, through Oct 15; visit sodhousetheater.com for specific info), it helps to make a commitment: to beer. Avoid hard liquor. You don’t wanna get snaky drunk. You want that not-quite-sober, not-quite-out-of-control level of nirvana that only beer provides. At last night’s performance (at the Eagles Club) I had one beer. I should have had three.

To call Hoopla Train a play is not entirely accurate. But what the heck, I’m feeling generous. The play features a bunch of goony, fright wig-wearing, ugly-costume-clad, whip wielding performers. Whiplash Lulu’s turn with a bullwhip is easily worth the price of a beer — the wonderful Andrea Wollenberg, and gosh can she dance, too. Uke picking. Dan Somebody does a brilliant song, which I’m guessing is called “One More Minute”. The lean, lithe and lovely Kimberly Richardson does the best single roller skate ballet you’re ever seen – Garçon! One more over here! Richardson, along with Darcy Engen and Elise Langer is one third of the grinning and talented Triplets. Luverne Seifert does a hootful duet with Engen (I think), detailing, through pieces of popular songs, the deterioration of their marriage. There’s Eriq Nelson with his fuzzy antlers. Jim Lichtscheidl plays the put-upon, cat-herding MC. Lichtscheidl also directs, for which we must forgive him.

All these artists stage a Keilloresque radio play, Hoopla Train, for our edification. Hoopla Train doesn’t give a date (that I can recall) but I’m guessing that the play is set in the 1940s or 50s. There’s some zippy polka music, provided by the Chmielewski (the correct spelling; I got it from the program) Funtime Band. Lots of polka dancing.

Oh, and a talent contest.

The Hoopla Train that I saw had an under-rehearsed, semi-improvised feel. This added mightily, imo, to its considerable charm. The actors all had fun; I bet you will, too.

Here’s what I suggest: meet your chums at a taproom. Have a couple. Then go to the performance venue and see Hoopla Train. Have a couple more. Then maybe a beercap after the show. You’ll have a grand time.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, about the magic of bedtime stories, has been published. Please visit John’s informational website.


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