FOUR CLOWNS is a physical, musical and emotional journey into what it means to be a human being. Follow four clowns who represent the four clown archetypes - the sad clown, the mischievous clown, the angry clown and the nervous clown - as they get together to lament and reminisce about their past. As the old adage goes, ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ but laughter comes most earnestly when reflecting on past sorrows. As the clowns tell their tales of woe and elation from childhood to adulthood we discover that really they are all the same, and so are we.
Warning: This show contains Graphic Violence, Simulated Sexual Acts and other wanton behavior.
"skilled and true" -Backstage
"relentless hilarity" -Examiner
"Did that really just happen?" -Campus Circle
"genuinely funny" -Greater Long Beach
"touching, humorous, entertaining" -Union Weekly
"distinctive and eye-catching" -Tolucan Times
"always funny" -Random Lengths
previous performance dates: MAY 13 - JUNE 10, 2011 - FRIDAYS @ 11pm
Creator-director Jeremy Aluma's performance piece made quite a splash during its run at last year's Hollywood Fringe Festival. This latest incarnation, with some noticeable tinkering, is every bit as entertaining. The play blends music, dance, physical comedy and narrative performed by four archetypal clowns cum red noses and painted faces: Sad Clown (Alexis Jones), Mischievous Clown (Kevin Klein), Angry Clown (Raymond Lee) and Nervous Clown (Amir Levi). Accompanied by the commanding virtuosity of Mario Granville on piano, the clowns tell of the common and uncommon: nasty fights with siblings; a trip to the doctor that resulted in molestation, teenage angst, that special event known as a first date; a mom at home trying to cope with family issues. There is a lot of audience interaction that transpires, which adds to the fun. In one especially poignant moment, Lee opens a steamer chest (which is the only prop used) and finds a Christmas gift. What surprises most about this show is the ease and spontaneity with which the performers interact with one another and their manic energy, which at times seems to take over the stage. There is a fair amount of coarse language and X-rated material (not all of which is funny) so this isn't a show for the kiddies. -Lovell Estell III; © 2011 L.A. Weekly
It’s in your face comedy—like having a clown’s boutonničre squirt water in your face. This strangely dark and disturbing journey through the uglier aspects of humanity contrasts against the lighthearted antics of four clowns inevitably becoming human through a trial by fire. What holds their red noses to the flame is the nefarious desires such as molestation and natural instincts like sibling rivalry taken to a sadistic level of torture and humiliation. Also among these less than virtuous experiences are issues surrounding abandonment, debauchery, murder and schadenfreude—the delicious delight in someone else’s pain or misfortune.
It’s said that dying is easy, but comedy is hard. These four clowns representing the various archetypes of the fool: Sad Clown (Alexis Jones); Mischievous Clown (Kevin Klein); Angry Clown (Raymond Lee) and Nervous Clown (Amir Levi) make clowning around look easy, but being human is harder than a face painted smile. Conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma, the subject matter is so outrageously shocking that juxtaposed against the improvisational hijinks and physical comedy the overall effect is both stultifying and stimulating. It works in spite of its overly thin if not superficial premise and enjoyed critical success and rave reviews in last year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival (winning an award for Best Physical Theater)...
Besides the clownish characters and costumes, cutely expressed with color and different ties by Cat Elrod and some cynically funny songs such as “When You’re A Child,” “Cancer, Dying Babies, Dying Dogs…” and the succinct “You’re Born Then You Die” musical vignettes, the show lacks theatrical meat on its bones. In the spirit of late-night shows of the “Crack Whore Galore” variety, this production is best seen after a couple of cocktails and then you’ll probably want to have a couple more after just to combat the comic hangover.
The four ring circus clowns are not of the usual trope and each actor brings their own special talents to the roles. Jones, the only female performer of the group does an excellent job of balancing the frenetic energy between her cast mates without becoming overshadowed. Levi garners empathy with his sweet, sly and sickly sexual innuendos. Lee is a lightning rod of energy and nimbleness with bouts of furious rage followed by feeling regret. Klein shows off his physical talents ala Jim Carrey and commands the stage throughout.
Between the scenes spun about in a frenzied improvisational game of role-play, the clowns interact and engage the audience in a very charming way. Woe to anyone who slinks in late as you will become part of the show. There are also additional bits and gags forced in. There is a sense of trying to stuff more in this clown car vehicle than it can really fit in. And mind you, there is no intermission.
Later this summer, “Four Clowns” is taking their act on the road to the Minnesota Fringe Festival and the San Francisco Fringe Festival.
If you’re looking for an offbeat, wickedly funny and extremely adult oriented
brand of comedy then this is definitely up your alley. It’ll have you laughing
at the most inappropriate situations and squirming in your seat. The issues
dealt with here are the kind that most people have trouble smiling about and
yet, you probably will. Sick huh? But this is one sick puppy of a show.
-M.R. Hunter; © 2011 Eye Spy L.A.
Four Clowns is probably the sweatiest play I have ever seen. The four young actors in it expend more energy in an evening than most actors expend in their entire career. It is also almost dystopian in its view of the human condition, contains a lot of buggary and is hysterically funny. Be prepared to be confounded, to be embarrassed, to recognize your own life and the life around you, to be presented with every possible pain and petty evil the world can heap upon humanity, and to laugh. A lot.
Told though a series of vignettes with improvised bits between them to move from one to the next, four clowns, the Sad Clown, the Angry Clown, the Mischievous Clown and the Nervous Clown, move through the terrors and tragedies of childhood, adolescence, adulthood and death. Along the way, they stop at young love, young lust, child abuse, parental favoritism, filial hatred, the abuse of power, alcoholism, drug abuse, war, the abuse of law and almost any other kind of abuse you can think of, the whips and scorns of time, the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, the pangs of disprized love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office, and a couple of bare bodkins. There is even sweetness, although you know as soon as you see it, it will be dashed asunder somehow.
The evening begins with Mario Granville, a very accomplished piano player, entertaining us as we enter the theatre and chat amongst ourselves. He then heroically accompanies almost every moment of the show itself, occasionally suffering abuse at the hands of one or more of the clowns. After the lights dim, a commanding voice echos from the sound system and, in a twisted Dr. Seuss-like verse, sets the stage. Then the clowns gather in a kind of kick-line and sing a song extolling the joys of childhood, which include, incongruously, boobies.
There is much audience participation (bordering, at times, on audience abuse) but there are several through lines of stories; the dysfunctional family with a crazy mother who hates her daughter, the young man who worships his older brother who is really, really, really mean to him, the man who enters and makes his way through marriage and the corporate life of a working stiff, etc.
There is some inconsistency in the show; although the Mischievous Clown and the Sad Clown remain pretty much mischievous and sad through out, the Angry Clown and the Nervous Clown leave behind their archetypes more often than not, but that is a minor objection. Also, some of the improv aspects where pieces of a vignette are suggested by the audience don’t always work, although on the night I saw the show, the cure for the suggested disease “imploded penis” was nothing less than brilliant.
Each clown has his own trait and his own color, represented by his costume, his handkerchief, his makeup and any prop he pulls out of the community chest.
Each of the four actors brings a different energy to the piece, and they all add up to a very complete whole. They are all physically and comedically accomplished and their combined effort works surprisingly well. Kevin Klein plays the Mischievous Clown, all in purple. He plays the put-upon husband of the abusive mother, the abusive older brother, the young husband/corporate drone and several others, each with its own distinct form of dysfunction.
Alexis Jones is the Sad Clown, all in blue, appropriately, who is subtler than the others, quieter and not quite as manic, but what she brings to the whole is delightfully twisted. Her casual asides to a chosen audience member throughout the evening built to an hysterical crescendo. Raymond Lee is the Angry Clown, all in red. He has some amazing physical moments, both broad and subtle, and the genuinely sweet scene depicting new, young love is as charming as it is funny in it’s truth. Amir Levi is, perhaps, the most varied in his bits, the yellow Nervous Clown, he seems at times almost dangerous and the intensity and perfection of his comic timing wear you out from laughing.
The costumes, not mere clown suits but brightly ragged and appropriately surreal, were created by Cat Elrod. Special mention must be given to prop master Natalie Rich Miller, who had to find (or make) all those primary-colored props. The makeup, with each clown face subtly different from the rest, was by Amy Kubiak. It might be wise, however, to find a more robust brand in future as much of Ms. Kubiak’s artwork was sweated off twenty minutes into the show. The lighting design, which was simple and very effective, was by John Sylvain.
Jeremy Aluma developed and directed the show, which started at last year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, was reprised recently in Long Beach and is about to embark on a tour of Fringe Festivals around the country. He brings to it a singular, if dark, vision and the broad and subtle, slapstick and intellectual, satirical and sophomoric humor evident throughout show his talent and versatility of thought.
-Geoff Hoff; © 2011 L.A. Theatre Review
Clowns: More lighthearted than a unicorn, more frightening than the Chupacabra, they have the uncanny ability to both delight audiences and make them want to hide under their beds. While many label all clowns as uniformly and unquestionably creepy (this is perhaps the reason why no one took up my offer of a free guest ticket), the more discerning individual sees beyond the red nose and white face paint. At their essence, clowns navigate the tempestuous seas of human emotion, from ecstasy to depression, from deceit to belief.
“Four Clowns,” a performance piece conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma, perfectly understands this basic characteristic of the clown. During the roughly 90-minute production, staged at the Sacred Fools Theater in Los Angeles, the audience follows four archetypal clowns representing anger, anxiety, sadness and mischief on their journey from childhood to death.
Structurally, “Four Clowns” is very easy to unpack. A musical number in which each cast member takes a solo introduces each phase of life. Four short dramatic vignettes follow, each scene focusing on a particular clown. Improvisation, audience involvement and physical gags break up the story line’s action, especially when clowns are preparing for their next scene. The predictable structure facilitates audience understanding of the narrative and fortunately does little to detract from the spontaneous and highly unpredictable contents of the show.
The musical numbers, perhaps, are the only exception to this rule. The cast sings well, and the lyrics are thematically meaningful as well as hilariously ribald. However, the songs’ verse-chorus structure lags in comedic pace when compared to the roller coaster of action and emotion in the acted scenes and improvised sketches.
As far as subject matter goes, “Four Clowns” is actually pretty depressing. Physically abusive brothers, sexually abusive teachers and psychologically abusive parents traumatize the clowns in childhood. Awkwardness and bullying mar their adolescence. Depression and disappointment close off their adult lives as they resign themselves to the last musical number’s chorus of “You’re born and then you die.”
Thankfully, the show never becomes a pity party. On the contrary, the loud, raunchy and violent tenets of clowning rarely allow the circumstances to take themselves seriously. A mother giving her daughter nothing but diet pills to eat is monstrous. A soldier who slaughters his own compatriots is shameful. Drug addiction and murder are deplorable. And yet the most resonant measure of social acceptability – laughter – indicates that the audience embraces the way that “Four Clowns” depicts these tragedies.
To their credit, Alexis Jones, Kevin Klein, Raymond Lee and Amir Levi are superb in their respective roles as Sad, Mischievous, Angry and Nervous clowns. No one actor plays the diva: They share the stage equally and command the audience’s attention. The on-stage pianist, Mario Granville, complements the quartet in their antics with great attention as almost all of his music is improvised to match the clowns’ unpredictable movements.
While the show is funny and fulfilling, any theatergoers need to understand that, despite the music and its fine dramatics, “Four Clowns” is still a clown show. It is loud, violent and vulgar. Pantomimes of fellatio, sodomy and hand jobs are almost too numerous to count. Profanity litters the actors’ lexicon. At times, the brassy content overwhelms the audience’s connection to the story. For the most part, however, it alleviates tension and makes the clowns’ plights more digestible.
Aluma truly has a winner in his hands with “Four Clowns.” The actors’ intense actions help them portray a wide breadth of emotions. And while the mostly harmless show might not appeal to all, there certainly is no need for Angelenos to hide under their beds.
-Daniel Boden; © 2011 Daily Bruin
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