Sometimes in theatre a great idea is ruined by poor execution, or vice versa.
I Wrote This, the first half of this production, is one of those happy times when an ingenious idea has bloomed to its fullest potential through creative direction and delightful acting. It is a series of short pieces written by current and former Sacred Fools members-back when they were ages 4-10. These child-authored texts remain unaltered, except for one or two brief additions, but they have been staged and performed with all seriousness by adults. The result is a type of primitive art that is as funny as it is fascinating.
I Wrote This contains 16 pieces, ranging from a few seconds to 15 minutes long. Each piece is announced by a small child's voiceover and performed by the ensemble of eight actors. There are several gems, beginning with
Life Is Not Easy, Part III: Chapter 1: It's Hard Being a Baby, penned by Vanessa Perkins when she was 9. The rudimentary tale about a child with purple eyes (Kirstin Eggers) and an adventure in the woods is performed as a serious drama, complete with grammatical mistakes and several passages that make little or no sense. Ariadne Shaffer, at 7, wrote
(Brandon) Alex, a.k.a. You Are a Idiot. Choreographed by Jessie Marion, this is a minimusical about two co-workers who make rude noises and play dirty tricks, until they suffer the wrath of their co-workers. The funniest segment,
Beautiful Thing's, is a video of an illustrated story by Tenaya C. Cleveland, who wrote it when she was 6-and-three-quarters years old and who, as an adult in the cast, narrates her work. Cleveland's story about her brother's birth has been turned into a melodrama worthy of a movie on the Lifetime network.
Corey Klemow and Ruth Silveira direct I Wrote This as if they were working with the plays of David Mamet, including one piece that is simply math equations. By adding adult emotion to immature words, they have developed complexities to be seen in few plays. The ensemble is strong, in particular Eggers, who is wonderfully evil as a ruler named Queen Bad.
In Ten West, the production's second half, a clown duo of Jon Monastero and Stephen Simon offer a hit-and-miss series of sketches, though the ones that work make it worth staying the extra 45 minutes. The wordless routine, complete with bowlers and briefcases, takes its cue from Charlie Chaplin and other silent-movie icons. In the opening scene the two try to get their hands unstuck from each other. Most of it is well-executed tried-and-true material. One notable exception is when Monastero plays with a pair of dolls. As Johnny Cash's epic "Hurt" plays, Monastero re-creates a tragic romantic tale that Ken and Barbie have never known; it will keep you laughing on the ride home.
Bryan Coffee, director of Ten West, has ably assisted Simon and Monastero by keeping the scenes brief and energetic. Both performers are remarkably expressive, conveying several nice comic moments with little more than glances or shoulder shrugs.
This show looks into the minds of children through the eyes of adults. It's a wonderful combination.
The Sacred Fools Theater presents a double feature program--I WROTE THIS and TEN WEST, two different shows that combine comedy, drama, and a mixture of both!
The first set, I WROTE THIS, consists of a series of skits written by the Sacred Fools Theatre staff when they were kids not too many years ago. These stories, not necessarily meant to be performed to a public, let alone even seen outside of the family household, are a mixture of comedy, science fiction (lots of that), horror, and other emotions only known to the young writer. The sixteen stories range from a tale of scientists from the future creating a dangerous thing from the past (c.1987), a freak baby caged and displayed as amusement, a mini musical number stating that "you are an idiot", a tale of a rare African bird written in the style of Dr. Seuss, a Queen who becomes evil and desires all of the jewels of the world, and plenty more! The writers, consisting of Tenaya Clevland, Padric Duffy, Dean Cameron Eikleberry, Aaron Greenbaum, Becky Harrison, Corey Klemow, Dara Klemow, Jessie Marion, Vanessa Perkins, Jenelle Riley, Ariadne Shaffer, Ruthie Silveira, and Amir Talai, were between the ages of four to ten when they created these works. The ensemble cast (Brandon Clark, Tenaya Clevland, Kristin Eggers, David LM Mcintyer, Joe Monastero, Taylor Parker, Stephen Simon, and Shelly Wenk, with the voice talents of Sasha Botittia-age 8, Yogi Sylvain-age 4, and Tyson Palmisano, Jr.-age 7) play an assortment of roles and perform in plots that only kids would think of! (To add the last of names, Jessie Marion, Corey Klemow, & Ruth Silveira adapted these tales for the stage, with direction by Klemow &
The second show, TEN WEST, stars Jon Monastero and Stephen Simon, performing in a series of skits in total pantomime in sync to selected musicial pieces. The skits are funny, and even touching. The skits and the performances resembles something one would see in some variety show airing during the early days of television (a la Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason, Red Buttons, etc.), or perhaps performed on a burlesque stage between the strip tease acts. Bryan Coffee directs these two into a kind of entertainment that has been forgotten over the many years where complex performances have been the theater norm in recent times.
Art Linkletter once stated that kids say the darnest things, and Allen Funt proved that kids could be very candid, with or without a camera! I WROTE THIS tests that kids do write what they know--more than adults would ever want to know, and TEN WEST shows that
so-called 'old' vaudeville is so fresh, it's new again! One has to hand it to the Sacred Fools Theater Company--they really know how to present an original production, even if portions were finally presented some 20+ years after the fact! After all, kids will be kids--or are they??
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