Farmer's Branch — If you don’t know who Sally Jessy Raphael was, Laughing Wild will lose a little of its grip on you. It’s by Christopher Durang, so it’s still got its crazy, just not it’s crackle.
Director Araceli Radillo Bowling can’t do anything about the dated references in the first act, but preserves the wacky in the second. The production, by L.I.P. Service at the Firehouse Theatre in Farmer's Branch, succeeds in asserting that in the mixed up modern world, the only way to connect with another human may be a little insanity.
And a can of tuna fish wouldn’t hurt, either.
In stream of self-conscious monologues, two characters pour forth their various neuroses, as well as describing a curious encounter in a grocery store that by chance concerns the other. The proceedings flow in a manner that would seem very recognizable to the late eighties theatregoer when this debuted. This was the same era that gave birth to Jerry Seinfeld, after all, and the first act seems like Durang’s attempt to meet the audience where they are before veering into his preferred bizarro world in the second act where, for instance, the Infant of Prague appears on Sally Jessy Raphael.
Just go with it.
The monologues, relying regularly on topical references, sometimes miss their mark. Bowling allows Monalisa Amidar to endeavor to show us how furiously insane her character, The Woman, is instead of allowing the character to endeavor to preserve what’s left of her sanity. Pushing the performance on us keeps it from creeping inside of her. That is until one spine tingling moment of complete emotional breakdown. Its clear Amidar is capable of great intensity.
Austin Cline plays The Man with a more delicate approach. He’s more apt to land a joke with an eyebrow raise. Where Amidar is a snarl, he’s a smirk. The challenge facing his performance is finding what’s at stake. When he finds it in himself to risk losing during his monologue, the show as a whole will win.
The second act allows the two to begin to play together and include in the fun a few “Figments” played by Amy Cave and Joshua Hahlen. Besides a rotating array of fun projections the show has consisted mostly of standing and talking. When the figments begin to comment, interfere and interact, they come as a welcome respite. Cave and Hahlen are blessed with timing to land their bits and take some of the pressure off.
The final moment of agreement between The Man and The Woman is ultimately hopeful. In the New York City metaphor of modernity, two people see eye to eye despite all circumstances to the contrary.
If the walk down memory lane isn’t enough to make you misty, remembering how quaint our troubles were then will, considering our current political climate.
Of course, then, you’ll be crying for a different reason altogether.