Updated: Mar 20, 2019
The company, Poor Richard’s Players, is back on the boards after a lengthy hiatus with a remounting of their 2015 Fringe Festival winner Never Tie Your Shoelaces in Paris (30 Plays in 60 Minutes). The production is a potpourri of 30 newly-written, original, lightning-fast plays, directed by the troupe, and presented in 60 minutes (or less, as was the case last night).
The format for the evening must be licensed because it is a registered trademark of Greg Allen, whose Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (30 Plays in 60 Minutes) performs at The Neo-Futurarium in Chicago and at the Kraine Theater in Manhattan 50 weeks a year.
Anthony Barnaby, Karalyn Clark, Brenna Folger, Maxim Lardent, Benjamin Loewy, and Mark Valentin, mingled with the audience as they came in, creating a festive, loose atmosphere in the Baobab Stage in Town Square. As with Dick Johnson: Private Eye (a series of award winning original plays), this production was done on a bare stage, using various props piled onto tables. For this performance, though, the only lights used were overhead fluorescent works.
The audience chooses the order of the plays, which run from the ridiculous “What Are People From Jupiter Called?” and “My Heart Will Go On Kazoos” (oh, lordy, save me!) to the sublime “Mood Record” and “Lucky Numbers.” It’s a mixture of silly, thoughtful, funny, and sad.
Some of the pieces fly by so fast, it’s difficult to grasp which actor, or actors, are up there, and the program doesn’t credit each playlet. So, if I mess up on who did what, I beg their forgiveness.
In “Mood Record,” Barnaby beautifully bares the soul of a man who suffers from Bi-Polar Disorder as he reads a series of journal entries. It’s heartfelt, and the words at times catch in his throat while he weighs the number of good things/days against the bad. The sense of how easy it is to forget the good stuff, and how people misunderstand and react to the mood swings affects the life of those fighting the disorder, comes to the forefront - not because he says so, but because it’s apparent in his body language.
Ben Loewy does a really nice job with “I’m Not Great at Everything,” a piece which chronicles the life of a man for whom most things appear to come too easy - until they don’t. Yet, others still retain the perception as he struggles to put extra effort into succeeding. In a feat most actors would love to be able to achieve with every step behind the footlights, Loewy’s honesty shines through.
“The World According to Roger” is filled with a legacy of life advice from a father to a daughter, and Karalyn Clark, in relaxed repose, lists them out giving each one the weight it deserves.
If the production had a longer run, I wouldn’t give it away, but Lardent and Clark brought the house down on “Qui Est Sur la Premier” - for those who got it, anyway. If you speak French (which I do not), it was easy pickings; if not, well the baseball bat should have been a clue to one of the most famous, if not infamous, comedy sketches of all time: “Who’s on First?” Using wild gestures and proper emphasis and tone, Lardent and Clark hit a home run.
In an ensemble piece, “Lucky Numbers” was particularly hard-hitting. As Folger relates a night out after a show with fellow castmates, the remaining actors stand behind her and repeat the numbers 41, 66, 73, 47, & 59. The numbers represent the end result of a drunken driving accident and the ages of the recipients of donated organs. The mood of a dramatic script is enhanced by lighting, yet this cast didn’t need them to hit the right emotional buttons.
There were other portions which were done well; some left me with a total question mark as to why they were used other than to fill time. Overall, it’s a decent night of entertainment, though I can’t say it was up to par for this usually talented group of people.
What: Never Tie Your Shoelaces in Paris : *** (Satisfying)
When: 8 p.m. January 8 & 9
Where: Baobab Stage - Town Square, 6605 Las Vegas Blvd S.
Tickets: $15 (www.poorrichardsplayers.com/)
Producer: Poor Richard’s Players; Directors: The Cast