Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Posted by Tenley at 12:28 PM
The Karma Cookie is a funny play. This shouldn’t surprise anyone: it’s a funny name, and the folks at 1812—“Philadelphia’s ALL COMEDY Theatre Company”—know funny. But what makes the performance a side-tickling confection of verbal quips, mental gymnastics, and broad slapstick is not the script but the production itself. The direction, design, and particularly the acting of this ridiculous show left me and my friends giggling, chortling, chuckling, laughing, and even (I won’t name names) guffawing in delight. I myself let out at least two embarrassingly loud snorts, I’m not ashamed to admit.
To describe the play: think Waiting for Godot, but not. P. Seth Bauer’s script is chock-full of existential silliness, but as I sit here a week after seeing the show, what I remember are not lines so much as moments between Barry (Anthony Lawton) and Alistair (Jered McLenigan) as they struggle between Barry’s innate pessimism and Alistair’s childlike optimism, searching for meaning in the most meaningless of places. Lawton and McLenigan brought a frenetic energy to their performances, with scenes that crackled and sparked and left me breathless. The pauses in their pacing felt less like momentary peace and more like the winding up of a particularly explosive toy. Whether contemplating baby theft or discovering their inner fascists (“The Workout Will Set You Free!”), both actors’ whole-bodied commitment never flagged.
The production design more than complemented the actors’ performances, serving more as a third member of an ensemble than as a supporting element. What seemed at first like a plain, unadorned blackbox stage transformed cleverly into (among other things) a Chinese restaurant, a Buddhist monastery, a hospital delivery ward, Westminster Abbey, hell (?), and ultimately, Scotland. Matt Saunders’s set and Paul Moffitt’s lighting combined to make of the Adrienne’s space a puzzle-box: part of the fun was waiting to see what it would turn into next.
The Karma Cookie runs now through March 29th, and in this economic climate I cannot recommend it highly enough. What more could you ask for—the tickets are cheap, and it’s a good laugh. Enjoy!