Cutting edge

Zzoomm Zzoomm the Magic Clown

By Stephen Spoonamore
Directed by Stephen Spoonamore and Kent Gasser
Esperance Theatre Company
Pelican Theatre
750 Eighth Ave. (479-7752)
Non-union production (closes Nov. 9)
Review by Sarah Stevenson

Energetic. Impassioned. Dedicated to performing even if nobody comes. A bit off-beat (grotesque, even). No, this description is not of the Esperance Theater Company (although it could perhaps apply equally to those actors), but rather of the company they portray: the magical circus troupe of Zzoomm Zzoomm the Magic Clown. Somehow thrown out of sync with the traditional routes of time, they roam the country in some apocalyptic future, performing for non-existent houses. All remaining people get their daily entertainment through the mass-feeding of "brain link cable." Heavy-handed satire? Not really, as this merely provides the background. The intense focus is on this one dedicated troupe. Funny? Absolutely, but to quote a line from the play: "Not circus funny. Existential funny."

Trevor Williams played Bobo the Dog Faced Boy, a clown whom Zzoomm Zzoomm (Paul Sparks) recruits from a Montreal circus to groom as his successor -- to become the next "alpha clown." Bill Velin played Skeedaddle the Lizard Man, a physicist surfer who somehow came on board. Shay Gines was Lola the Mute Woman, and Jenna Jolley played her daughter (by Zzoomm Zzoomm), Lotinda the One Ton girl. Like any teenager, Lotinda just wants to be "normal." She wants to leave the circus. The problem is that she has now been fifteen for about one hundred years, and leaving the time rift the circus travels in will probably (according to Skeedaddle's calculations) lead to immediate aging and death. (The science-fiction overtones are thankfully kept in the background, as they have the potential to reduce the subtle, wonderful, absurd world to boring sci-fi.)

The intense commitment to the material by this talented acting troupe was stunning. The show was powerful, intense, and provocative. The costumes by Todd Sutherland were lavish and brilliant. Angel Hayes played Transformica, garbed in black from head to toe, who "transforms" into various characters ranging from a frog sitting on a rock to a cow to a woman to a replacement for the departed Lotinda, in a wonderful use of costuming and puppetry. The set was a simple but well-designed circus ring, beautifully enhanced by Rob William's lighting.

The piece was not completely without flaws, however. Act One was sheer genius. But after the lights go up on Act Two, the play seemed to lose some of its energy and purpose. It even became a little maudlin by the end, as the troupe falls apart, and Zzoomm Zzoomm says he "stopped dreaming when he became a magic clown" in a discouragingly sentimental monologue.

But even with these flaws, Zzoomm Zzoomm. . . is a really fabulous bit of playwriting. Interspersed with the events that unfold before the audience, Bobo is interrogated by an invisible voice, frozen in a glaring spotlight, discussing the disintegration of the company from a future vantage point. Directors Spoonamore and Gasser moved the cast brilliantly through the three levels of reality (interrogation, circus act, and day-to-day life) and back and forth through the levels of time -- levels that refuse to stack up nicely as past, present, and future, but seem instead to overlap, cancel each other out, prove impossible. With Zzoomm Zzoomm The Magic Clown, Stephen Spoonamore and The Esperance Theatre Company have created a daring, innovative and ultimately disturbing work.

Box Score:
Script: 2
Directing: 2
Sets: 2
Lights: 2
Costumes: 2

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Copyright 1997 Sara Stevenson