Romanian-French playwright Matei Visniec may not be well known in the U.S., but his fame extends throughout Europe. Adapted by Jeremy Lawrence, OLD CLOWN WANTED explores aging through this absurdist, cynical, tender, and very funny look at three clowns who just want to be wanted again. Theater and circus arts are cleverly woven together into a comic look at everyone’s fear of being redundant as the senior years approach.
In 2018, Author Visniec described the play as “the world as seen from the top of the clown’s nose.” While Visniec may love clowns, he also sees clown as “the embodiment of one who laughs when one cries and cries when one laughs…can tear each other apart, becoming three pathetic gladiators who kill each other over a little classified ad…it’s this cruel side of life which so interests me, the side that sometimes transforms us into vicious clowns, moronic clowns compelled to strut about, to perform in the great social comedy, playing with the hands of the machine conceived for the purpose of humiliating us, of dehumanizing us, of killing us.”
Niccolo (Alan Abelew), Filippo (Jose A. Garcia), and Peppina (Beth Hogan), three elderly clowns who can no longer find work, see an advertisement for an audition for “a small part for an old clown.” Each eagerly rushes to the interview site and discovers that his competitors are actually two friends from the good old days. They happily reminisce about past glories – while giving the audience a peek at song-and-dance clowning at its best – as they sit in a stark outer office waiting for the casting director. But there is only one job – and three applicants. Will former friendships go the way of the dodo bird as they realize that they must compete for that one coveted spot?
OLD CLOWN WANTED is a clever and charming piece about life, friends, competition, memories, and growing old. The cast of three delightfully execute the fun things that everyone remembers from his childhood visits to the circus, pratfalls and all. But are those smiles daubed on – or do they go deeper than greasepaint? And what about tricks, illusions, and manipulation? Do they have a part to play?
Director Florinel Fatulescu helms the production with an eye to the dichotomies in each of us – the funny, happy, sweet side and the far darker, deadly side of human nature. The three old clowns do a bang-up job of being silly but also clever and poignant. Jeff Rack’s scenic design, Bosco Flanagan’s lighting, and John Zalweski’s sound – and especially Amanda Martin’s costumes, bright socks and all – add dimensions to the tale. It is funny, poignant, and absurd – all at the same time.
OLD CLOWN WANTED runs through November 4, 2018, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tickets range from $32 to $37. Tickets for $10 are available on Wednesday, 10/24 only. For information and reservations, call 310-477-2055 ext. 2 or go online.