Review: The Lapsburgh Layover

Ars Nova goes Berserker with an off-kilter comedy.

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  • Photograph: Ben Arons

    The Lapsburgh Layover

    The Lapsburgh Layover at Ars Nova

  • Photograph: Ben Arons

    The Lapsburgh Layover

    The Lapsburgh Layover at Ars Nova

  • Photograph: Ben Arons

    The Lapsburgh Layover

    The Lapsburgh Layover at Ars Nova

  • Photograph: Ben Arons

    The Lapsburgh Layover

    The Lapsburgh Layover at Ars Nova

Photograph: Ben Arons

The Lapsburgh Layover

The Lapsburgh Layover at Ars Nova

Time Out Ratings

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

The Lapsburgh Layover is overlaid with multiple covers of metatheatrical gamesmanship. Tucked too tightly, such an approach can be stifling; but the layers are endearingly larkish and loose in this offbeat hybrid of dinner theater, genre send-up, horror thriller and sketch comedy. The show begins with a humble immersive conceit. The audience is cast as air travelers grounded in the unluxurious nation of Lapsburgh, long cut off from the world by a plague of killer frogs, whose residents are eager to ingratiate themselves. The loopy play they have devised to that end—Detective Mickey and the Case of the What Happened at the Club Regard, a film-noir murder-mystery Western with sci-fi elements—is an amusing mishmash akin to Lapsburgh itself, which seems part post-Soviet republic, part tropical getaway and part Lovecraftian nightmare zone.

Developed collectively by the Debate Society's Oliver Butler and Philadelphia's up-and-coming Berserker Residents (aptly, the first company-in-residence at Ars Nova), The Lapsburgh Layover moves adeptly in and out of spoofery. Queen bee of the evening is Zelda (Leah Walton), a mix of Liza, Evita and Zsa Zsa; her gung-ho workers, who do double duty as her actors, are played by Berserker founders Justin Jain, Dave Johnson and Bradley K. Wrenn. Making excellent use of the Ars Nova space (smartly transformed by designer Lisi Stoessel), the cast navigates the show's sinister turns with comic aplomb. Like an inside-out version of Lapsburgh's agricultural staple, the pineapple, The Lapsburgh Layover has prickles beneath its sweet flesh. But on each of its levels, it provides a fine diversion.

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Ars Nova. By the Berserker Residents. Dir. Oliver Butler. With ensemble cast. 1hr 30mins. No intermission. See complete event information

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