Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Freaks"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


by John Kuntz

Directional Consultant Kevin Fennessy
Lighting Designed by Marc Klureza
Stage Managers Cori lucas, Marc Russel

John Kuntz has linked the five monologues and three mime bits in his one-man show by laying little land-mines of recognition, and then setting them off. When the old woman being interviewed because she owns 158 cats, at the end of the show, mentions a young man who at the bus-stop calls her "Tuna-Fish Salad" she means Andy, from the second bit of the show. When the couple behind her in the check-out line have nothing but breakfast-food and confectioners sugar filling their cart, and the check-out girl is on roller-skates, it's a case of deja vu all over again.

His little stories are designed to see how far he can stretch the oddities of these "Freaks" without the fabric of their reality snapping. When his Ronnie auditions for a musical version of the film "Xanadu" (to be done on roller-skates), her best acting goes into pleading to be cast and exploding in frustrated tantrums when thwarted. When Jane pauses periodically in narrating a peculiarly surrealistic dream to caution that "this next part may be a little hard to believe" the possibility that it could be more outlandish than what goes before is unthinkable.

Three mime bits outlining a day in the life of a typist eventually has her typing choreographed to the music. One incredibly funny bit about a man who thinks he has forgotten how to sit down properly gets no laughs, because the depths of his perplexities over it all are heart-wrenchingly real. And Kuntz does two action-filled mystery playlets involving half a dozen different characters each, including both halves of Siamese twins.

He does it all with lightning switches from one set of gestures or postures to another, using a slender, supple body that can apparently do anything. When Andy, his gay man, works out at the gym, Kuntz creates nautilus-machines out of thin air, yet manages to continue the monolog while that body performs reps of difficult but seemingly effortless actions.

Though his program bio doesn't mention it, I first saw John Kuntz in a production of "Taming of The Shrew" in which he played one of Petruchio's servants. It's a thankless role that has a long exposition-speech describing the awful ways his master has been treating the new bride. But Kuntz rattled off the speech while whipping about the stage miming everything in a precise yet breakneck pace that almost made him the star of the show. He had obviously honed his skills doing "Freaks" to the point where this bit of business was a mere snap. It makes me wonder what he'd do if cast as Touchstone, say, or Bottom.

But luckily, while he waits for casting-directors to wise up, he's writing a new 2-character play, and has prepared another set of characters for a new show called "Actorz with A Z" which will be ready next year.

And his "Freaks" are still playing to packed houses at The Little Flags Theatre in Central Square who laugh as much reminding each other of what they have seen as they do watching each astounding minute unfold. Raven Theatrical ought to be proud.

( a k a larry stark)

"Freaks!" (Wednesday Thursday and Sunday nights till 28 September)
"Plum Pudding (Friday & Saturday nights till 28 September)
Raven Theatrical, Little Flags Theatre, 550 Massachusetts Avenue, CAMBRIDGE
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