Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Farce Explodes Across the Artificial Jungle

The TBTB group (Theater Breaking Through Barriers) celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company by bringing to stage The Artificial Jungle, directed by an original Ridiculous Theater member Everett Quinton. That’s a lot of baggage to hang on a simple little farce; the 25th anniversary of a famous group and movement and a theater group dedicated to the advancing the work of writers and performers with disabilities. But entering the Clurman Theatre, all of the baggage melts away in a funny little show that doesn't take itself too seriously at all.
Anita Hollander, Alyssa H. Chase, David Harrell, Rob Minutoli & Anthony Michael Lopez - Photo Carol Rosegg
The Artificial Jungle plays as The Postman Always Rings Twice done via a Carol Burnett skit, set in a lower east side pet store. It is goofy, farcical and very funny. The play, by the prolific Charles Ludlam, is loud and preposterous but doesn’t fall to slapstick. It all works because the actors might be playing everything over the top, but they take it seriously. The actors here are great, pulling out all the stops without ever breaking character with even a wink and a nod. It is this group of professionals that sell The Artificial Jungle.

It is the story of the Nurdinger family, owners of a neighborhood Pet Store. Husband Chester (David Harrell) is a satisfied man who is content with life – family dinners, weekly dominoes and selling the odd pet. Wife and femme fatale Roxanne (Alyssa H. Chase) is not in the same mental space, to say the least. She is disgusted by pet shop chores, her husband’s lack of drive and her mother-in-law’s mere existence. Mother Nurdiger (Anita Holland) is doting mother to Chester and realistic pet shop owner employer to Roxanne.
In a more nuanced drama, we would be shown what motivated Roxanne and Chester’s marriage, where the anger came from and how it built up. The Asphalt Jungle has no time or desire to deal with these back stories. Instead a handsome drifter is hired to work in the store almost immediately (Anthony Michael Lopez) and Roxanne waste no time in plotting with him to get rid of the bouncy and chipper Chester. Rob Minutoli does some admirably funny work as the police cousin of the Nurdingers. Puppetmaster Satoshi Haga handles the duties of the piranhas.
The Artificial Jungle moves quickly with lots of plotting, loud kissing and meaningful stares. Originally down with a fair amount of Ridiculous Company members in full drag, director Everett Quinton brings the same zaniness to this troop of actors. It is a very funny show.
The Artificial Jungle | Playwright: Charles Ludlum |  Director: Everett Quinton | Cast: Alyssa H. Chase, David Harrell, Anita Holland, Anthony Michael Lopez, Rob Minutoli | website

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