NY Theater Review By Marcina Zaccaria
Pipeline Theatre Company presents an encore engagement of “Clown Bar.” In “Clown Bar,” Happy Mahoney’s brother, Timmy, is found dead, so he finds solace as he returns to a seedy world to ask some questions. The vice and violence of the clown world are exposed, and Happy Mahoney earns his red nose after leading the audience through this exceptional theatrical experience.
“Clown Bar is written by Adam Szymkowicz, with music & additional lyrics by Adam Overett. It is an interactive, site specific play. The performance space is quite special. Set under a disco ball and using the space around café tables, the actors have all their angles covered. Somehow, they are always showing their good side.
The clowns begin by greeting the audience outside the venue. The actors lead the audience through the bar area to the main performance space filled with red curtains, small café tables, and posters of PT Barnum. Performances throughout the play are sincere and irreverent.
Direction by Andrew Neisler is inventive, celebrating the best of vaudeville. Each new character is introduced slowly. Peformers with colorful names like Blinky, Dusty, Bobo, and Petunia take the stage. The audience meets the vixen Petunia, the balloon eating Timmy, and the suave and sophisticated Happy. It is a creative ensemble, starring Willy Appelman, Salty Brine, Andrew Farmer, Jessica Frey, Daniel Johnsen, Michael Lorz, Iris McQuillan-Grace, Claire Rothrock, Gianmarco Soresi, Dan Tracy, Amir Wachterman, and Shane Zeigler.
Clowning and themes of the circus are in full force. Although there is bawdy humor throughout the piece, the comedic style is quite light. Live piano music is quite extraordinary, weaving together the music and the action on the stage.
Smart design makes it easy to appreciate the world of the clowns. Set & prop design is by Andy Yanni. Costume, Make-Up, and Wig Design by Meghan Gaber includes bright wigs, enormous bowties, and floppy shoes. Lighting design by Joe Cantalupo is sometimes dream-like, generating a purple haze or orange light to beam through the smoke.
The last part of the play is actually quite chilling. As the white paint on the faces of the clowns begins to glow through the smoke filled haze, the audience can feel the stillness and the silence in each beat.
All in all, “Clown Bar” is an exceptional effort and worth seeing. It is a fine effort from Pipeline Theatre Company that was founded in 2009 with the intention of making theater of the imagination.
*Photos: Suzi Sadler
“Clown Bar” began its production at The Box on June 14. It was performed at 189 Chrystie Street. For additional information, go the www.pipeline.org.