by David Lally · January 25, 2015
Brent McBeth, Danny Gardner, Joel Jeske | Jim R Moore/Vaudevisuals
Comedy, choreography, costumes, clowns, cake and cows. What do all of these things have in common? They are all a part of the latest truth-in-advertising show from the group Parallel Exit called Everybody Gets Cake.
A cross between Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Laugh-In, a series of sketches and blackouts, far more sophisticated than most of what passes for comedy today, Cake is a throwback that instantly feels fresh and invigorating.
I would rather watch this show ten times to seeing any current Broadway show once. There is more going on here in a fast-paced hour and fifteen minutes than in most shows that have a running time twice as long.
There are so many great moments that I hesitate to single any out, but one called “The Handheld Symphony” in which two musicians click and swipe their way musically using only their smart phones soon becomes a giant pissing contest of one-upsmanship and hilarity.
Another highlight is a spoof of old mental hygiene films, those old classroom films that several generations were forced to watch to deal with life’s issues, this one based on a manual called “Awkward Human Contact”. An elderly nursing home tenant waits each day during visiting hours for someone who never comes. Who and what is he waiting for? There is also a great running gag introduced by Joel Jeske, who warns us that there will be a bell warning when something unpleasant will be seen next and that the audience has the discretion of covering their eyes or turning away. Coincidentally, the same bell also is used for something that is happy. This conceit is put to good use in a series of quick blackouts that are funny, comically terrifying, or sweet. Who can look away when a crazed masked serial killer is petting a kitten?
But those are just the ones I am chuckling about a few days later – really everything here is terrific and there is not one bit or character that falls flat. The pace is quick, the dialogue is short and sharp and every sketch gets to its point quickly. Many recurring characters appear throughout the show, giving it a cohesive feel.
Credit director Mark Lonergan and his brilliant cast, each of whom warrants separate mention.
Brent McBeth: Whether he is playing a Newsie, a snooty Shakespearian Actor or a solemn, yet sympathetic Doctor, Brent slips easily from lowbrow to highbrow at a moment’s notice.
Danny Gardner: From a wide-eyed kid arriving in the big city to become a Broadway star to Hans the Sneaky Nazi to a Novocaine abuser, Danny has pizazz and energy to spare.
Joel Jeske: Mis-managing balloons, trying to take an ordinary coffee break or as Albert Einstein trying to figure out how to work a microphone, Joel’s rubbery face and physicality nails every character the second he walks through a door.
All three have great comic timing and physically, visually and stylistically, complement each other perfectly.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fourth clown, keyboard player Ben Model, known, among other things, as a cracker-jack silent movie accompanist. He has just the right music for each and every movement and line and even ends up onstage participating in the action. He’s a perfect fit.
The set and lighting by Maruti Evans is a visual marvel and manages to make the cramped black box theatre of 59E59 appear larger than it is. Doors and windows are everywhere and it was fun to see who was going to come out of which door or pop out of which window every minute. It was a visual tennis match, but not only was the ball going back and forth, it was going up and down as well. Completing the look are costumes by Oana Botez, which are colorful, clever and instantly conveys who each clown is at the moment, which is important in this style of comedy, as there is no time to explain who each character is, so we need that visual clue to immediately click into the scene. And yes, everybody does get cake!
I recommend you stop by the 59E59 theatre to have some theatrical dessert.