Sunday, June 9, 2013

Me Rich You Learn – by Adam Carpenter and Zach Steel

Zach Steel and Adam Carpenter 

By Joe Straw

The day didn’t start off right.  Off in Santa Monica a crazed gunman killed four human beings and scores of SWAT, police, and fire personnel rushed bravely to control the situation.

The news was impossible to ignore living so close to the crime scene.  But, escaping to another part of the city, I was eager to see some light hearted fair.  And I couldn’t think of a better way than to go to The Open Fist Theatre to see Four Clowns - Me Rich You Learn.  There, I could see clowns frolicking around the stage making those of us who needed a laugh, laugh.

But, I didn’t see clowns in this production.  Wait a minute, that’s not a fair assessment.  I saw one clown in bright clothes and a funny red nose, for about a nanosecond.  

But the bill says Four Clowns.  There were only two, and two members from the audience who participated. That equals four.  Four clowns?  I only saw one clown, and a guy in a funny hat. Two, maybe?

Four Clowns presents Me Rich You Learn by Adam Carpenter & Zach Steel and directed by Turner Munch for a limited engagement at the Open Fist Theatre in Hollywood.

Life in modern day USA is not good when you don’t pay your taxes.  But the IRS is more than willing to work with you in order to pay down your tax bill, or send you to prison. (Which, by the way, doesn’t get the tax bill paid.  It increases expenditures to have your cheating butt incarcerated.) Still, the IRS can be very creative and have ingenious ways for you to pay your tax bill.   

TR Hamer (Zach Steel), king of the white polyester suit, satin blue shirt, and long white clown shoes, has been a bad boy.  And, because he is a successful motivational speaker, the IRS thinks it’s a great way to pay off his egregious tax debt.   

TR Hamer once was a point millionaire (anything under a million dollars), his money evanescent, now lost because he paid diddlysquat in the way of taxes.  One gets the feeling he doesn’t like this motivation show idea one bit.  Still, he is good at it, and why not give it a shot.

There to see that he does his community service job with aplomb is Martin Almond (Adam Carpenter), the lurid glaring, and mild mannered IRS agent who keeps the show and TR in line.

But, TR has tasted the good life, too good in fact.  And with the sexual proclivities of a common house cat, TR has had his run with fast cars, fast women, faster bucks, and now he is in a lot of trouble.  He can’t forget the good times, so he relives them on stage at every opportunity, in graphic details, with his implementation tools, generally located around his groin region.   

On far stage right is a video camera taping their movements and on center stage right is chart with the following game plan.

8:15pm   Martin Almond Intro
8:20pm   TR Hamer From a Life of a Misguided Man
8:27pm  W-2 and You
8:33pm  Am I a Business?
8:37pm  Taxes?  Do I have to?
8:51pm  Shallow Mellow
8:55pm  Cheese Plate Social

But nothing goes right from the start and the show becomes a nightmare – a worse nightmare than being audited.  

There is a lot of rich physical life in this clown comedy.  At the end the actors are a tattered mess and they are drenched in water, sweat, blood (fake), and other bodily fluids.  Their clothes hang in shreds from their bodies and buttons and marshmallows litter the floor.  Such is the life of a clown.

Adam Carpenter

Adam Carpenter does a fine job as Martin Almond. Sans hat, he looks the part of an IRS agent, with hat; well it’s anyone’s guess.  Carpenter does a lot of interesting work.  I’m unsure if the shy, uninteresting IRS agent, who has taken a lot of classes at the YMCA, plays to its greatest effect. There is the façade of an IRS agent but underneath lies a perfectly respectable human being and we don’t see much of that character.  

Zach Steel plays TR Hamer.  He is boisterous, and physically aggressive, and seems to fly off in directions that play like improvisation.  In fact, most of his performance seemed to be improvised as he moved in the direction of the above chart, until he got to the part in which he needed to perform.  Nothing wrong with that, but it just seemed off script. There is a point where he says the script is not working, and after that, his performance soars. There is a likeability factor in his character, the need to communicate to get his point across, and this is well worth the price of admission.   

Carpenter and Steel, the writers, need to get the relationships working and quickly establish who dominates in the relationship. Clowns are human beings and the relationship need defining. For example, the IRS agent should be the boss in this relationship; the criminal overran his nebbish counterpart.  The criminal seemed to be pulling all of the strings and the agent was the hamster running around the criminal’s wheel.  And if true then we need to see how the criminal is smoothly getting his way.  Right now the criminal powers his way like a bulldozer.

Turner Munch the director did a fine job.  There was a slight problem with the fourth wall.  When we are making a TV show and use members of the audience, we should include them in the disasters that follow, they don’t all of a sudden become an uninterested party, employ them for help.  Is there a doctor in the house?  Instead we forget the audience and the forth wall suddenly becomes the Berlin wall.

And, just as an aside, the acupuncture needle appears to be an engravers tool and was slightly painful to watch, what with the blood, and all.

Still, the audience this night, mostly in their twenties and thirties had a great time, and gave our troop a standing ovation. A standing “O”.   You couldn’t ask for a better audience.

Jeremy Aluma, the Producer, did a wonderful job getting the crowds in.  And I must admit he made us feel right at home.  The women at the front desk were very polite and courteous. And the folks greeting us at the entrance of the theatre asked a lot of question and took pictures.  It was just a wonderful evening!

Other members of the crew are as follows: 

Assistant Director: Raymond Lee
Stage Manager: Ashley Jo Navarro
Lighting Designer: Brandon Baruch
Costume Designer: Lis Vizcarra
Set & Props Designers: Meghan McCarthy & Alexandra Giron
Make-Up Designer: Cat Elrod
Production Manager: Mike Funt
Artistic Director: Jeremy Aluma

Run!  And take a clown that likes sidesplitting comedy.  

Thursday, June 13 @ 8pm
Friday, June 21 @ 9pm
Saturday, Jun 22 @ 5pm
Friday, June 28 @ 11pm
Saturday, June 29 @ 10pm

$12 general admission
$10 fringe participants or w/ code taxman
60 minute run time
@ 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival
@ Fringe Central @ Open Fist Theater
6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038

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