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HomeOperaCraig Houk's near-perfect 'Brute Farce' skewers a theater critic

Craig Houk’s near-perfect ‘Brute Farce’ skewers a theater critic


DC Theater Arts doesn’t typically report on staged readings (and by no means evaluations them), however the premise of this one was too scrumptious to move up: “4 vengeful, narcissistic actors, with the help of a brutish stage supervisor and a cynical stagehand, abduct and maintain captive a theater critic infamous for shutting down productions and ending careers via his malicious evaluations.”

Craig Houk’s authentic comedy Brute Farce has a veddy British Noises Off and The Play That Goes Incorrect vibe about it. Set in “a careworn, scarcely skilled, Provincial Theatre in England,” the play sends up not solely the venality of the theater critic in query but additionally the daft self-importance of actors.

Houk’s description of the two-level set guarantees silliness in extremis: “A cramped and unkempt Lure Room which has been transformed right into a Dressing Room…. Above the Lure Room is the Stage upon which sits a complicated Nineteen Twenties Examine, serving because the set for the play inside…. A lure door on the Examine ground opens into the Lure Room under.”

At rise, the much-unbeloved critic, Alistair McHugh, is manacled within the lure room. It should shortly be established {that a} cockamamie plan has been hatched to kill him throughout a play inside the play. A disgruntled actor coincidentally named Killian has masterminded the homicide, which entails swapping Alistair into the play as a personality who usually has a bag put over his head and is fake-punctured with a retractable horseman’s decide — besides this time, with Alistair within the function of corpse-to-be, the horseman’s decide can be deadly. It quickly turns into obvious that as accomplices go, the opposite three actors — the luxurious Quinn, the selfish Vivian, and the narcoleptic cokehead Fiona — are a hopelessly bumbling bunch. To Killian’s consternation, they’ve misplaced the plot. Killian urges them to concentrate on the menace that Alistair poses:

KILLIAN: He’s been relentless in his efforts to undermine and, at instances, fully shut down any manufacturing that doesn’t go well with his unattainable requirements. And he’s been significantly vicious because it pertains to every of us, repeatedly castigating us in his evaluations, with the concerted purpose of placing an finish to our stage careers.

Thus the setup is ripe for hilarious dialog:

ALISTAIR. What can I say? I’m a theatre critic who lives for unhealthy theatre. It’s my one weak spot. I exist as a result of there are actors on the market who’re profoundly self-aware, and who’re grateful to listen to the reality. And I persist as a result of there are actors on the market — such as you lot for instance — who take me too critically whenever you shouldn’t.

VIVIAN. Oh, is {that a} reality? Have you learnt, there are psychological establishments full to the brim with actors who’ve taken critics critically?

ALISTAIR. On behalf of reviewers all around the globe, I’m honored.

VIVIAN. Your evaluations are unreasonably harsh. And I’ll settle for that although it’s the accountability of the theatre critic to be essential, it doesn’t imply that the critic ought to benefit from being merciless.

ALISTAIR. I don’t benefit from being merciless. It’s merely a by-product of years and years of publicity to dreadful scripts, second-rate productions, and vomit-inducing performances.

For anybody who’s labored backstage or on-, there are inside jokes aplenty, particularly prompted by the seen-it-all stage supervisor Deirdre and her overwhelmed assistant Reggie. In what needs to be one of many funniest props in theater lore, Reggie has rigged an elaborate electrical cueing system involving 4 coloured gentle bulbs, one for every actor, and 4 clear gentle bulbs, one for every scene. The actors all being themselves dim bulbs, the machine leads to full confusion.

Judging from an exceptionally well-done staged studying I attended the opposite night time at Anacostia Arts Heart, the primary act of Houk’s comedy is a near-perfect, laugh-out-loud farce, owing not solely to the cockamamie plot however to the comedian invective among the many bungling actors, harried manufacturing crew, and acerbic critic. The present’s synopsis calls Brute Farce “a satirical commentary on the perpetually symbiotic, oftentimes dysfunctional, and infrequently turbulent relationship between actors and reviewers.” And it spares nobody.

All through Act One which lure door between higher and decrease ranges retains by accident dropping open, a sight gag that presages the goings on in Act Two, when a melodramatic play inside a play takes place above intercut with scenes involving the constrained critic within the room under. I felt the comedic momentum exit of the play in the course of the second act, when the main focus shifts to the extra conventionally unconventional play-within-the-play whereas the sensible throughline about offing the critic will get brief shrift.

As somebody who typically performs the a part of theater reviewer myself — and as one who believes no critic is above criticism — I totally loved Act One, and I believe a stronger Act Two could possibly be devised that will flip Brute Farce right into a future theater-laughs-at-itself basic alongside Michael Frayn’s Noises Off.

Brute Farce by DC-based playwright Craig Houk us receiving 4 staged readings (October 27, 28, and 29, 2022) on the Anacostia Arts Heart, 1231 Good Hope Highway SE, Washington, DC. For added info on these readings and to buy tickets ($10), go on-line.

Brute Farce
Written by Craig Houk
Directed by Lisa M. Hodsoll
Assistant Director: Craig Houk

CAST
Michael Replogle: Alistair McHugh
Matthew Pauli: Killian Black
Karina HiIIeard: Deirdre Shepherd
Dana Scott Galloway: Reggie Brimble
Claire Schoonover: Fiona Bainbridge
Lisa M. Hodsoll: Vivian Pruitt
Steve Lebens: Quinn Ponsonby
Colin Davies: Stage Instructions

PRODUCTION TEAM
Manufacturing Stage Supervisor: Laura Schlachtmeyer
Mild Designer: Christian Jones
Sound Designer: Craig Houk

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