Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Selfies at the Clown Motel
Also see David's review of Kinky Boots, Mark's preview of the E.J. Thomas Hall Season Preview Party, and Mark's reviews of The Woman Hater and Objectively/Reasonable: A Community Response to the Shooting of Tamir Rice, 11/22/14
Clowns! There is seldom a neutral opinion about these comic entertainers that don colorful traditional costumes complete with exaggerated make-up. Reactions to clowns range from fear and hatred to joy and unbridled hilarity. Contemporary slasher movies, which changed our minds about a lot of things, have added to the negative reactions.
If you like clowns, there is a show right up your pie-in-the-face alley. Selfies at the Clown Motel, playing through September 17 at convergence-continuum, is chock full of clowns. Two of the characters are clowns. The stage hands are all dressed in circus glad rags while acting out various traditional gags as they go about their appointed housekeeping duties. The set is replete with clown memorabilia, including a clown bed, Bozo the clown phone, pictures of clowns on the walls, and a giant clown that is part of the large Clown Motel sign. In short, the Clown Motel is stinking with clowns.
What makes this story unique is that the ending starts out as the beginning of the play and each scene following goes toward the beginning of the story. Rob (John Busser) is an entertainment consultant involved with circus people. He has left his wife of thirty years to travel the country by motorcycle. In this mid-life crisis journey he has hooked up with a much younger female clown, Chloe (Leah Smith) who specializes in high wire work and they are found shacking up at the Clown Motel (which actually exists) in the desolate desert town of Tonopah, Nevada, situated on State Route 6, halfway, as the crow flies, between Reno and Las Vegas and in close proximity to a 150-year-old cemetery.
They spend their days looking for food and drink in the local dives and watering holes and in the evening they wait for the desert to get dark so that they can continue their carnal exploration of each other in their little clown hideaway. Chloe is no stranger to this particular motel as her mother Agnes (Lauri Hammer) owns it and her half-brother Skar (Jack Matuszewski) is the night clerk who suffers from insomnia (at one point it is revealed that he had a disastrous affair with Chloe years before). Agnes' ex-husband, Lars (Gideon Lorete) drops in from time to time in his circus costume in order to test out new routines on the ex-wife. As Rob and Chloe have their romp, they pause from time to time to take "selfies" of each other and those around them just for the fun of it.
Without giving too much away, you must pay careful attention to the opening scene in order to understand the finale as well as those scenes in-between. The play features sharply written dialog that at times is quite topical and hilarious. This is a play that demands full attention from the audience member. Let your mind wander or blink and you may miss the point of the entire work.
There is some profanity (mostly in the form of hand gestures), some partial nudity, and lots of simulated sex. This is not a play for the prudish at heart. Opening night went quite smoothly, especially with the "Western Clown Time" sign that morphs into selfies stills and video as well as Chloe's dream sequence video. The lighting is effective and spot on in timing, which is important for the sequences of the play to work.
convergence-continuum bills itself as theater that opens into unknown territory by breaking down the fourth wall. With its intimate seating (in some cases inches from the action) the audience feels more a part of the play than a bystander. At the end of this work you may come to realize that we are all Bozos on this bus.
Selfies... is directed by convergence-continuum's Artistic Director Clyde Simon and features John Busser, Leah Smith, Lauri Hammer, Jack Matuszewski, and Gideon-Patrick Lorete.
Selfies at the Clown Motel runs Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm through September 17, 2016, at the Liminis Theatre, 2438 Scranton Rd, Cleveland, in the historic Tremont neighborhood. Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 seniors (65+), $10 students. Reservations and information can be found at convergence-continuum.org or by calling (216) 687-0074.