Review: Four Clowns: Romeo and Juliet

This show featured Shakespeare’s moste excellente masterpiece, Romeo and Juliet, as performed by a troupe of clowns. I thought this was great. I thought this was one of the best versions of Romeo and Juliet I’ve seen. I certainly enjoyed myself the whole way through, which is more than I can say for other productions of Romeo and Juliet. It wasn’t the best play I’ve ever seen, but it was certainly very good.

Four Clowns

I found their timing impeccable; the show just kept right on clicking. The clowns were able to provide constant entertainment at a level that never dipped. They kept the same energy right through to the end- and it’s hard to keep the same level of energy for ten minutes (as I know from watching way too much improv), much less a whole ninety minutes, especially when you start off with such a big bang in the first place. This was obvious by the end, when some of their facepaint had dripped off in sweat. Now there’s the mark of a dedicated player. I thought their energy was more impressive than any other pure comedy that I saw at the Fringe, in this regard.

I found much of their show to be quite humorous and laughed often. I liked it when the Mischievous Clown, Mercutio, played his ukelele while trying to climb a ladder and stopped to say, “-hold on, this is hard…..” I liked it when the Sad Clown, a Keanu-like Romeo, said to Angry Clown Juliet, “Roll with me!” and they did somersaults. I liked it the way Worried Clown played Lady Capulet like totally the worst Beverly-Hills-ignoring-you-full-of-herself mom ever- man, they get on my nerves, and it’s good to get some catharsis out.

It is interesting to note that one L.A. theatre critic, Harvey Perr, made this statement:

Radar LA was much more important than the Hollywood Fringe Festival. More important in its objectives. Because it brought to our city everything the city hasn’t had in the theatre. I didn’t see anything like that here. I don’t think it’s all that exciting. Last night I was surrounded by thousands of screaming people who seemed to have no judgment or taste and I’d rather be around those other people. And that was one of the best shows at the Fringe.

Perr had seen most Radar shows, but only one out of over 200 Fringe shows- Four Clowns. Lulz.  Ah, well, Perr has already been embarrassed by this statement enough, but I do want to discuss critique regarding Fringe and shows such as this.  Perr, and others, also did not take into account that Radar and Fringe have entirely different purposes, modus operandi, and audiences. I don’t know what Radar brought that Fringe didn’t (and Perr does not explain) but maybe I just have no judgment.

There were other critics Who Shall Not Be Named who forgot to keep a wider perspective, and certainly who forgot to be eloquent, diligent, or at all constructive in their reviewing process. The show “completely SUCKED” was one entire review. Ahh, professionals. Now, I use foul language too, but I also try to be educated at the same time and honestly review shows. I try to avoid horrible logic, that is, faulty mathematics, such as generalization fallacies and so forth. I don’t pretend to be the best critic in the world. Most of it is only opinion anyway- I saw reviews for one particular show which would say, “not enough acting” and another review for the same show say “too much acting”. But I do believe that criticism should be constructive. I wonder why some critics desire to be so completely useless that their review consists only of insult- not constructive criticism, or an explanation of why a show was awful, but mere insult. Oh, because it makes one feel good to do that. It engenders sensationalism instead of art. It gives one a high. We need to overcome these egoic matters and realize that we are all one theatre community intent upon creating the best art possible.

Others will rightly say that since Fringe has that different modus operandi, we have a lot of clunkers. This is a place for new and emerging art. We accept any kind. A lot of it is unfinished and a lot of it does suck. What were you expecting? But more of it is good, and a lot of it is truly wonderful. I think some critics were indeed expecting the quality of a hit Broadway musical, but shit, we haven’t got nearly the same budget. You’re going to see, gasp, very crude theatre. But you know what? I like that. I like that Four Clowns merely used a simple set of two ladders, a curtain, and a trunk. That’s more than is needed in any show. I’m used to much simpler sets of just a chair or two. I’m used to improvising at home like the French aristocracy did long ago to entertain themselves at parties. As a former professor once emphasized over and over, theatre is Greek for “seeing place”, and so all one needs for theatre is a space in which someone might be seen by a seer. We don’t need your fancy production values to have awesome theatre. And I think most of Fringe was better than a lot of other crude theatre I’ve seen, besides. Never did I actually find myself in a Fringe show wishing the ENTIRE TIME that I were somewhere else, as I have done on many occasions while watching other theatrical performances. Even the worst shows at Fringe didn’t evoke that awful feeling for me. Maybe I was lucky. But I think that’s pretty good for the amount of shows I saw.

So. The one show that Harvey Perr did see was, indeed, Four Clowns. And he didn’t like it and thought we, the audience, were tasteless. To each his own opinion, I suppose- I liked some shows many viewers disliked, and disliked some shows many viewers liked, and obviously opinions aren’t fact- but Four Clowns swept the awards at our awards ceremony, winning the Dance & Movement Award, the World Premiere Award and the Top of the Fringe Award. I know that a majority population can often be wrong about something, as anyone can see by looking at the phenomenon of popular music, or the fact that something like Prop 8 can be voted in, but in this case I agree with the majority. I think Four Clowns was great, even if I don’t necessarily think it was the best show I saw at Fringe. Now, this was certainly a modern Romeo and Juliet for a modern and perhaps youthful audience- the clown humor was very adult. I guess we Fringers are just tasteless for enjoying a good anal foot-fucking so much. I mean who doesn’t, Perr? Don’t lie. It’s totally tasteful.

Okay. To be fair, this might just be an age thing. I know that my uncle was once, in college, a carefree pot-smoking individual who laughed at all sorts of low-brow humor. Then, as an adult, he became a Responsible Republican. He watches the same movies which once had him gasping for air between laughs, and now finds them, indeed, tasteless. Well, so maybe Perr just doesn’t realize what is appealing to youth and to a great number of people. He is entitled to his opinion. He probably doesn’t poop either. But I believe firmly that Four Clowns and Fringe both provide a lot for humanity and artists.

“…farceurs… took on the most famous story of all, but twisted Shakespeare’s text into an excuse for unjustified F-Bombs, unnecessary non-stop mania and unreasonable amounts of libido-driven crassness. Laughter may be the best medicine, but medicine can have toxic side effects, too: the show needed to breathe and take itself more seriously. ” – Tony Frankel

Regard for the Bard and the venerable art of clowning reach a perilous new low as the Four Clowns brutally burlesque Shakespeare’s immortal tale of star-crossed lovers into an excruciatingly witless 90 minutes of egregious, nonstop mugging and scatological excess. ” – Bill Raden


Oh, man, this reminds me- do you remember those venerable days of satyr plays, those popular masterpieces of our theatre’s ancestry? Remember the mighty and noble and venerable phallos? Remember the comedies, too? So adult. So proper. I certainly remember fondly those days when I belabored over the perfect way to translate the master, award-winning, Greek playwright Aristophanes’ words about farting moste eloquently. It is so sad to see it all go to σκατός (the Greek word for shit feces, whence scatology descends). The Great and Mighty and Infallible Bard would never have stooped to such humor!

Note that Four Clowns has a kickstarter campaign that they might begin a national tour, if you’re feeling generous toward theatrical or clownish arts. I hope they do get to spread their art across the nation; it would be a good thing for everyone.  Haha, they already made it long before I could even post this review.  Good on them.

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~ by korakaos on August 9, 2011.

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