Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Last of The Orange Show"

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"The Last of The Orange Show"

by Marty Barrett and Dave Bellenoit
Directed by Dave Dowling

Technical Director Jason Freimark
Original Music & Musical Direction by David Coleman
Stage Manager Vicki Burnham

Marty Barrett
Dave Bellenoit
Katie Carson
Julie Gowing
Mike Hoban
Will Luera
Dossy Peabody
Lonnie Farmer
Julie Perkins

Plus a noisy rock band of some sort

Marty Barrett is splitting to the Left Coast, ending over three years of collaboration with Dave Bellenoit that has given Boston twenty-one appearances of "The Orange Show" at The Playwrights' Theatre. Their most recent effort, "The Last of The Orange Show" contains a brief retrospective of short video-clips from past shows, but a silent slice of their work can never mirror their strengths or their style. It's likely that all remaining performances have been sold out for some time, but seeing The Orange Show itself is the only way to understand what they do.

One of their recurring bits involves improvising songs built around conversation with a person chosen from the audience, but their stock in trade is comedy sketches, scripted and rehearsed. The pair writes (or is it wrote? Tenses become problematical here!) separately, then assemble a cast and hammer out a show, each taking parts in skits written by the other. Only dedicated fans could tell who wrote what

What they wrote involved a peculiar sensitivity to the absurd and absurd juxtapositions --- like a kiddie-camp intended to make children into monkeys; like young Jesus, Buddha and Moses attending Messiah School together; like a video-ad selling a recorded compendium of Classic Clichés. The game here is applying a rigorous logic to bizarre confrontations, and not to blink at the results.

One game they played was repetition. They'd do a lame bit early in the show, do it again later with variations, and then do it a third time in a foreign language. In the current show there are filmed "audition" bits in which Barrett as director tries to coach actors on lines from a bit the audience has already seen.

It's important that people understand that these bits were always written and rehearsed and involved other actors. Those outsiders were asked not to "be funny" but to act, honestly full-out, in character. The current incarnation uses more cast in one show than ever before simply as a grand reunion, but the verve and detail of even the smallest reactions, as well as their precise timing, enforce a ground of reality against which the comic absurdities can bounce. Considering the brief rehearsal-times, the solid performances from these collateral casts have always added dimension to The Orange Shows.

Marty and Dave were always aware of the shock value of dirty language popping up in unlikely contexts, as well as the commonplace interlacing of swearing and obscenities in everyday speech --- and the comic possibilities of each. But though they used shock-value, it was always in the service of absurd comic juxtaposition --- the basis of their comedy style.

I hope that Mary Barrett takes that Other Coast by storm, and makes waves that we stay-behinds can experience. I hope Dave Bellenoit can continue enlivening the Boston scene with his wit as a solo act. But in any case, the loyal fans of The Orange Shows have fond, funny memories that will never fade.


"The Orange Show" (till 9 September)
Boston Playwrights' Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide