Tuesday, July 24, 8:30 p.m.
Friday, July 27, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 28, 4:15 p.m.
They say: “The commedia troupe is missing and our hapless stage manager must play all 11 characters with only his mute musician for help. Part Commedia dell’Arte, part Clown, Dead Man’s Mambo is a fast moving, improv-based performance with live music.”
Rachel’s take: The one-man show within the show Dead Man’s Mambo features a swordfight, one character throwing an object to another character who catches it, one person dying in another’s arms, a crowd scene, wrestling, handholding, and sexual intercourse.
Now read that one-man part again.
The premise of Mambo is that a Commedia dell’arte show with 11 characters has to go up while the regular actors are all still stuck in traffic. (The conceit extends to the program complete with the bios of the seven missing players. One of those actors is film and literature’s Wallace Shawn, who is slated to play Dottore.) When the actors don’t show, the put-upon stage manager has to perform the whole play himself, with no help at all from the show’s irritated, condescending musician (Andrew Clotworthy).
So, the exaggerated physical diversity of the characters and slaphappy slapstick emblematic of Commedia dell’Arte all get smushed into the form of John Bellomo, a performer of great charisma and mad physical comedy skills. Mixed in with the puns and melodrama of the story is the tension of OK, how’s he going to make THAT happen?
How he makes it all happen is quite clever. He fashions stand-ins out of whatever he can find backstage and puppeteers them into acting the scene with him. Director Brendon Gawel and Bellomo have put together a barrage of fast, neato moments in which Bellomo switches among the characters. You can follow the swordfight, how one character (Bellomo) attacks and the other (Bellomo) parries that attack, and which one of them is yelling at a given moment.
Clotworthy, who also composed the original music, plays the hell out of his role of a contemptuous man in a neck ruff. Props also (ha!) to stage manager Alyssa Cole, who must have been making all the quick changes too. It looks like a lot of fun, for them and for us. Some of the funniest moments came from the audience interaction, including when Bellomo’s four- or five-year-old son groaned from the audience at the tastelessness of one of the jokes. Wow.
See It If: You want to know what joke is so tasteless a five year old groans at it. Or you are into Commedia. Or you’ve never understood why people are so into Commedia.
Skip It If: You have had your fill of Isabella and Pantalone forever already.
DISCLOSURE: The author appears as an actor inThe Cloudism Project in this year’s Capital Fringe Festival.