The adventurous Lightning Strikes Theatre Co., winner of two OOBR Awards for their work, participated in this year's Fringe Festival by giving the New York premiere of Clive Barker's Crazyface. A somewhat precious allegory, Crazyface follows the sometimes sinister and oftentimes comical voyage of its hero, Tyl Eulenspigel, as he races through an alternative reality where historical fact, psychological realism, and clownlore coexist on the same stage. But Barker's script, by turns sentimental, arch, and coy, is so heavy with meaning that the pseudo-intellectual pretensions quickly become confusing - and ultimately exhausting. This dark, satiric journey has been made before, much more succinctly, by Voltaire and his immortal innocent, Candide.
However, as directed by Alexandra Ornitz [also an OOBR Award-winner - Ed.] with a startling sense of physical fun, the production soared over its earthbound material with touches of light and dark skilfully combined to explode in a commedia dell'arte riot of color, movement, sound, and style. Visually beautiful, aurally exciting, and performed with a verve that was contagious, everything about the production was right; no detail was too small to be overlooked, nothing was so big that it seemed extraneous. Shaun Motley provided simple set pieces and props that allowed Meghan E. Healey's sumptuous fairy-tale costumes to dominate; both were complemented by Jaie Bosse's rich, astutely unobtrusive lighting. Reed Robins's score and sound design added immeasurably to the overall quality of the evening, as did the exhilarating work of fight director David B. Heuvelman.
For the most part, the performances of the large ensemble were terrific, especially Patrick McCaffrey, a charming Tyl, and Martin Everall, D.L. Shroder, Rochelle Stempel, and John McDermott in a variety of roles. The highly appealing Lori Funk, George Eide, and Ted Brunson stole the show as the three pulcinellas, their strong physicality and lush, sensual energy serving as a stalwart anchor to the often outlandish goings-on. Only the very laidback Ethan Kent, as Tyl's somewhat surly guardian angel, seemed uninvolved. Investing just enough energy to get through the evening, he performed his role like Beetlejuice as a street hustler, but without the gloriously evil vitality that would have made his efforts worthwhile.
If the production was less successful in clarifying all the metaphoric ambiguities in Barker's script, it was completely successful as an evening of exquisitely wrought theatre. Beautifully produced, intelligently directed ,and vividly performed, this production of Crazyface proved Lightning Strikes Theatre Co. a force to be reckoned with, as well as a credit to vastly improved standards at the New York Fringe Festival.
(Also featuring: Carla Briscoe, Carla-Anne Burks,
Vanda Edwards-Jones, and Lou Kylis.)
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Copyright 1999 Doug DeVita