Fringe Audience, Day Three

After I wrote yesterday’s post at a Starbucks in far downtown Manhattan (right across from my brother Ian’s favorite building) while drinking a large vanilla something or other, and then went to go see Comedeus, which might be the best way to see it.

Comedeus, also known as “The Andy Ross Experience” is one of those theater/comedy pieces that walks right up to the line of what you can stand, but Mr. Ross has the decency not to step over that line. His piece is organized with sound cues and a couple of props, but really he’s just telling a story and he tries to make it funny for you. And it works. He makes it funny.

Here’s the thing. It’s not a coherent show, it isn’t presented as a piece of articulate art whatsoever. And usually that pisses me off. But the story he is telling is about two characters, Comedeus (God of Comedy, I think, I don’t know he was humping the stage half the time) and Tutheus (God of realism). Trutheus wants the world to be orderly, organized, disciplined and, y’know, he wants everyone to be off book by the performance. But Mr. Ross is on the side of Comedeus, so he just makes shit up. And almost all of it was either pretty funny, or really inspired and hilarious.

At one point, there was a noise from the theater next door that sounded exactly like horses. So, Ross decided that the character he was playing was on horseback. When we came back to that character, he remembered that it was supposed to be on a horse, but there was no noise from next door, so, on a whim, he asked us to bang on our chairs to make the horse noise for him. “Now you’re in the show!” he hollered. “I’ll pay you what I’m paying them!” he pointed to the stage manager with a huge smile that snapped into a scowl as he yelled “SUCKERS!”

Full disclosure, this guy is from the Carolinas, and as soon as I heard his accent and met his wife (the stage manager) I was totally on their side. I have friends that would have hated this, I know Jordana would have eaten her own tongue. But she has a heart of ice, as I’ve said before.

The second show was a bit of a mixed bag. Sound Of The Estate is one of the shows that makes legit theater people cringe. Uncle Vanya set in a harlem recording studio? But, of course, I’m a homer and anything with recording studios or hip-hop and I’ll give it a shot.

The play was updated masterfully, and the cast was wonderful. Most of the people are either hip-hop artists or singers, and Chekov in the mouths of musicians is just magical. Singers and rappers are used to communicating with word combinations they wouldn’t necessarily casually use, and the cast handled it really well. I loved the script, full of the same horrible feelings of inertia, the same horrible struggles between class and the unfairness of beauty and love.

If the playwright, Jehriko Turner had simply updated it and then given it to a director (he’s listed as doing both), he would have done the project a huge favor. For those of you wondering what a stage director does, believe me you know it when he or she hasn’t done it. If actors are unsure of their place on stage, if actors aren’t off-book, if scene changes are over-long or awkward, if set pieces don’t seem to belong, then you know the director didn’t know how to run rehearsals.

Also, it was a great idea to set it in a studio, but no-one on stage seemed to know what happens in a studio. There was a mixer, a keyboard, a computer and a booth on stage, and occasionally someone would press a button on the mixer to make sound happen, or would ask someone in the booth to play something back. In fact, they constantly asked people in the booth to play something back, and they would yell through the glass to talk to each other. I’m just saying, it was a cool idea, and a theater director, a nuts and bolts woman or man, would have taken this wonderful script and amazing actors and turned it into a theater piece.

Tonight, our show opens, and then I might be getting drunk. Or I might go see another show at ten, I’m not sure.