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Review Thu Jun 07 2012

Review: Birthday Boy @ Prop Theatre

ladybird.jpgA new work by Chris Bower and Matt Test, Birthday Boy is currently running as part of The Other Side of the Elephant, along with a selection of other short, original works produced by Curious Theatre Branch at the Prop Theatre, 3502 N. Elston Ave. Bower's and Test's voices shine through in the piece; their absurd, dark humor front and center throughout, slapping the audience in the face -- but in a good way, like getting slapped with a bolt of the very finest velvet.

In the opening scene we see Matt Test as Peter, who has just turned 13 and is wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with this fact. "I'm 13!!!!!" It reads on the front. A stuffed goose named Henry hangs on the wall, which just happens to be the same name as Peter's father, played by Chris Bower. Soon we see a half drunk woman in a leopardskin coat, sunglasses, a string of pearls, and red lipstick smudged across her lips stumble into the room accompanied by an attractive young woman bearing a pile of gifts. The inebriated woman is Peter's mother (Cat Jarboe), and the attractive young woman is his nanny (Kevlyn Hayes.) It turns out that the date on the invitation to Peter's birthday party was wrong, so nobody else is coming.

The dialogue is devastating, funny, and cutting: "It's true his cake is going to be terrible," Peter's mother says, "just like everything, just like life." The gifts are all disappointing: a $30 gift card from Restoration Hardware, "you can buy new knobs that look like old knobs for your dresser," Peter's mother says; a $20 gift card from Jo-Ann Fabrics, "you can get some fake fur or a glue gun," Peter's mother says; and a $30 gift card from Aldi,"they have that soup that you like," Peter's mother says. The only decent gift comes from Peter's nanny -- a framed photo of herself in a sexy pose with Henry (the goose.)

And then something happens that I didn't see coming: the characters break out into song, and it's unexpectedly wonderful in a Jack Black-esque way. With musical accompaniment from a single guitar, or at times a banjo played by Troy Martin, the twisted family drama is set to lyrics like: "you can't blow up a school with a mistake, but you can try," "he asked me if he can lay on top of me, I say 'only if you're quiet and promise not to move,' it's the life of a nanny," and "you are my wife and my mother because that is the American dream."

Henry (Peter's father) enters the scene late, and is welcomed with the words: "uch, daddy's home." It quickly becomes apparent that Henry (the man) is having an affair with the nanny, but he's none too enthusiastic about it. "Don't act like a fucking sex kitten, it's boring and unflattering," he says in response to her advances. Then he expounds on the hunting trip in the arctic on an all male adventure vacation where he ate Inuit cheese made from goat's milk, shot Henry (the goose,) and then declares: "who the fuck do I think I am, Ernest Hemingway?"

This is just a taste of what's to come; Bower and Test are currently working on a full-length version of the play, slated to run this winter. It runs again on Friday at 7pm, and the full lineup of The Other Side of the Elephant runs through Sunday. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets. For more information, visit Curious Theatre Branch or Hold My Horses, Chris Bower's blog.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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