(DISCLAIMER – The reviewer here, me, is married to one of the cast members, Theresa DiMuro-Wilber. But since most other reviewers in town don’t review this scrappy little company of actors, The Brazen Faced Varlets, I’ve taken upon myself to write about their latest production. I have, with great diligence, worked to remain objective.)
Having just been nominated for an Art Voice Arite Award for their last production, Libation Bearers: Electra: Screw You Mom, there is obviously no rest for the wicked – thankfully. Once again, in the small back room of the wonderfully musty Rust Belt Books, a small band of fearless actors, The Brazen Faced Varlets, are demolishing hundreds of years of Shakespearean theatrical tradition – with a swish, not a hammer. Loosely based on “A Comedy of Errors”, a slapstickian tale of misidentification and two sets of twins, this production has just about that, and only that, in common with the original. From thereon in, it’s a whole new ballgame.
In this production, the two locations – E-Town and Syracuse – are separated by sexual orientation. In E-Town you MUST be of the LGBT variety. If not, it’s OFF WITH YOUR HEAD! Well, one set of mismatched twins (the straight ones) wander into this burgh looking for their siblings who are, you guessed it, the OTHER mismatched set of twins – the gay ones! Confused? Well, you should be – at least a little bit. That is intentional and part of the charm of both the original and this version!
Needless to say, mistakes are made and ‘Patty Duke’ moments abound as the gays are mistaken for straight and the straights are mistaken for gay. At its heart this is a play about the absurdity of sexual identity politics. But the message sure ain’t the medium – the fun is. Four actors playing a myriad of roles, sprinting along at break-neck pace, packed with lightning fast and dizzying costume changes makes for whirlwind theater! When the show ended, I was exhausted for them! I also expected about a dozen more bodies in the curtain call. That’s how well executed this occasionally jumbled material is – but that, the jumble, is to be expected in the first mounting of this, or any, world premier work. If it’s new, there’s gonna’ be some problems – but, in this instance, not enough to rattle a really inspired comedy.
In typical Varlet fashion, chances are taken and effronteries are given. This is not a show for the faint of heart or those under the age of 18. It is bawdy. It is salacious. It is hilarious. Lara Haberbeger superbly directs the ensemble cast consisting of Kelly Beuth, Heather Fangsrud, Amy Wrzos and Theresa DiMuro-Wilber. It runs a lean seventy-five minutes and only costs ten bucks. Go! And give my best to The Dutchess!
Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 pm this weekend and next. And, with next weekend being ‘Pride Weekend’, it should be very special. Rust Belt Books is located at 202 Allen Street Buffalo, NY 14201-1416. Doors open at 7:30pm.