You have just three more days to see those fabulous folks of Happenstance Theater in their latest show- and kids, what a show it is! Slapstick Jukebox is a compilation of Happenstance Theater’s greatest hits, with scenes from Cabaret Macabre, Impossible! A Happenstance Circus, and Moxie, A Happenstance Vaudeville.
The company is calling this show an experiment, though the pieces are so well designed that the only real experiment is that there’s no theme to speak of. Jukebox-like signboards surround a puppet show-like stage, and vignettes are selected by audience members. As the audience gets to ‘pick’ each piece, no two shows are ever the same, and it’s great fun just to see the performers scramble to find costumes and props.
Yet if that makes for a slightly improvised show, it’s Happenstance after all, and these remarkable performers are always so polished that the evening is pretty much guaranteed to be enormous fun. Jukebox is slightly pared down from their more elaborately staged shows, but the costumes by Sabrina Mandell are, as always, spot on. With red, white and black the only colors onstage, each individual costume piece is chosen with care, and the period silhouettes are still there. A character enters, wearing a long black dress and two ostrich plumes in her hair- and you are immediately transported to the Gilded Age of opera. That kind of paring-down takes a sharp eye for costumes.
closes March 4, 2018
Details and tickets
Consummate editing is everywhere- from highly choreographed slow-mo fight scenes to the eclectic and beautifully researched music by Sound designer Sabrina Mandell (they should pay this woman twice), everything is carefully thought out and finetuned.
In between acts, the audience is subjected to some of the worst jokes and puns imaginable, and bad makes for good with these folks. “A groan is as good as a laugh” countered performer Mark Jaster at one point, and it’s true- but oh dear, some of the jokes are just awful!
I have my favorites to mention: “The Summit” in which two Edwardian explorers from opposing countries reach the top of a mountain simultaneously- spoiler alert, this ends badly for the gentlemen. “Train” features a crowded compartment and a man in a delightfully bad toupee (yes, it ends badly for the toupee); and “Croquet”- surely one of the company’s absolute Top Ten of vignettes: a genteel English afternoon of lawn croquet gone horribly and hysterically wrong.
I’ve just realized something: there is a theme, after all, to this pastiche of vignettes by Happenstance Theatre: Things End Badly For Overly Elegant People.
At an hour and thirty minutes, a short intermission would have been welcome, but that’s a small quibble in an otherwise delightful evening.
I wish I had more time to wax rhapsodic about this company- but due to the high winds, the power grid where I’m typing this is alternately flickering on and off, and I’d better get this to my editor before the whole house goes kaflooey. So I’ll say this:
Don’t let the winds stop you. Go see Happenstance Theater at The Theatre Project while you can! They end on Sunday, so get a move on!
Slapstick Jukebox: Artistic Co-Directors: Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell . Ensemble: Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell, Gwen Grastorf, Sarah Olmsted Thomas; Alex Vernon . Costumes: Sabrina Mandell . Lighting: Kris Thompson . Sound Design: Sabrina Mandell . Jukebox Panels Design & Construction: Alex Vernon . Stage Manager: Tori Munoz . Produced by Happenstance Theater . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.