nytheatre.com review by Chris Harcum
August 14, 2011
Alex Kyger, Amanda Miller, Christopher Paul Mueller, Scott Ray Merchant, Eric Ryan Swanson and Casey Kells are one committed ensemble that puts everything out there for you, except their own egos. The six members of the Chicago ensemble Les Enfants Terribles seem to be working with one large brain that transmits to the six mouths, twelve eyes and twenty-three limbs.
Yes, twenty-three limbs. Mueller kept one arm hidden. Why? I don't know. There also isn't any explanation for why Kells has girl parts on his costume or why Mercant has a large phallus pinned on his while the others don't.
We never find out and frankly it doesn't matter. Stimulated! is 45 minutes of delightful bouffon clowning about the things that get us up, get us going, and keep us coming back for more.
The stage is bare, except for a tarp taped to the floor. The six clowns, looking like bloody and decaying truffles, enter by poking their way through the upstage curtain. They walk in a cluster, seeming confused and frightened by the audience. They shuffle closer as a group, making noises and speaking in gibberish. By way of group-think magic, they suddenly know to spit in disgust at the reviewer and signal the latecomer to sit down.
Then they march through a series of vignettes that seem to go through a day in the life of an addict, which means anyone alive. They start by making really gross coffee and having a cigarette to get things started. Then at the office, they have an energy break with some Red Bulls. On the subway, an iPod drowns out a beggar. The iPod is ditched an iPad, which is upgraded to the 2.0 version. They ripple through the audience saying "There's an app for that. There's an app for that." And dive into a Facebook frenzy showing that we're more addicted to the idea of having "friends" than having actual interactions with friends. This kicks into an orgy of alcohol, drugs, kissing, punching and dying. Then they sing "Fix You" by Coldplay and seem to make everything better again. Until the next morning and the need for coffee kicks in.
The performance is like seeing a cartoon strip come to life. Sometimes silly, sometimes simple and profound. While they never really evoked big laughs from the audience, they did get a constant stream of smiles. I think the audience wasn't sure how to take them through most of the show. Bouffons can be rough and nasty. They can grab your stuff and mess you up. They can make you the butt of their jokes. While this bunch did their best to look the part, their performance was too cute and sweet to match. Like a haunted house, they can be kind of scary around you but never actually do anything to you.
I would recommend this show to children 10 and up. Well, anyone old enough to be okay with seeing water shooting from a big, fake phallus. It also makes a nice play-going sorbet for anyone seeing a lot of shows during a single day at FringeNYC. It's refreshing to see a show that's truly about the ensemble and not about any individual pushing to get recognition.