Everybody Gets Cake!: Theater review by David Cote
In your typical clown routine, the face is the place to paste the pastry. But the sneakily weird and delightful Everybody Gets Cake! is too clever for that: Although we see a trim rectangle of frosted goodness at the beginning and end of this hour-long frolic by the group Parallel Exit, it doesn’t get smeared over anyone’s kisser. These zanies are both too kind and too cruel for such baked-goods violence.
Zestfully directed by Mark Lonergan on Maruti Evans’s giant-arrow–covered cartoon of a set, Cake! is a breathless pastiche of microsketches and blackout sight gags stitched together à la Monty Python’s Flying Circus or Laugh-In, with a faint Adult Swim vibe of stoner perversity. It begins somberly enough, with a bent and shuffling old man (Joel Jeske) awaiting a visitor who never comes at his nursing home. This wordless interlude, accompanied by Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1, strikes a melancholy note that is briskly obliterated by a retro skit about a wide-eyed actor (Danny Gardner) coming to the big city to be a Broadway star. Further silliness arrives via a Noted Shakespearean Actor (Brent McBeth), a slack-lipped Novocaine Abuser (Gardner) and a Balloon Man (Jeske) who likes to stuff inflatables under his clothes. One of the more impressive bits involves two musicians (McBeth and Gardner) who “play” the click and swipe functions of their smartphones in “The Handheld Symphony.”
Most vignettes last no longer than the time it takes to set up the conceit and get a laugh, which is a surefire way to avoid letting a half-assed gag linger onstage, and it keeps a nice manic pace. The performers are polished physical comedians and balance each other well: McBeth fully exploits his naughty-choirboy looks; Gardner’s grimaces and jittery spasms bring to mind a young Jim Carrey; and Jeske endows the straighter, gruffer parts with dry dourness. I’m sure these lads would be equally funny in long-form comedy, but it’s a wise tactic to leave us hungry for more.—David Cote
59E59 (see Off Broadway). Created and performed by Joel Jeske, Danny Gardner and Brent McBeth. Directed by Mark Lonergan. Running time: 1hr 5mins. No intermission.
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