Tapate / Cover Yourself
nytheatre.com review by Kat Chamberlain
October 25, 2007
If theatre is all about depicting the human condition, then clowning is perhaps about reminding us how much we enjoy that condition. All the trials and tribulations, even accidents and failures, are crystallized into a trip down a funhouse memory lane. The clowns are seemingly doing things so absurd that we would never do them ourselves, but in fact, we have been there and done that in one form or another. That's why they are so funny.
Such is the case in Tapate, or Cover Yourself, a hilarious offering by a two-clown troupe from Spain, Pez en Raya. The story is about a fight gone wild, and a wife first convicted, then escaping from prison after hitting and kicking her husband to death. Not exactly daily encounters in most of our lives, but they tell the story in such ingenious ways that everything seems to make perfect sense in their surreal world that we instantly recognize as our own.
The show starts with a disclaimer of some sort. Christina Medina and Joan Estrader come out as themselves—except each wears a fake long nose—and talk about "humor," sitting on two of the dozen cardboard boxes that make up the entire set. "Our jokes are not as good as you think," says Medina, "one night they work, one night they don't." So, "don't expect anything." They go on to talk about "involved jokes" and "prepared jokes." But Medina particularly wishes to warn us about those coming from her partner. "We don't care," she informs Estrader after one of his attempts supposedly falls flat. We are laughing.
Then they start their tale of a murder case resulting from a fierce fight between a couple over television watching. It's social commentary disguised as slapstick with dances and songs, and you never know where they are going with it until the actions connect with one funny bone after another. The wife tries to flee the country, but Inspector "Ricky Martina" rushes to the airport to stop her. Estrader as a rookie cop conducts the funniest "racial profiling" I've seen at the airport. The wife gets caught and sent to jail, and is warned to keep quiet and not to "play the piano or with the washing machine." Then she escapes and kills again…
The farcical plot merely serves as a platform for imaginative ways to convey actions and thoughts. I have a feeling that they can tell any story and make it fascinating. It stretches the boundaries of sketch comedy in ways that make our inner child giddy, because it all ends up in the imagination territory.
Medina and Estrader play multiple characters, exuding a loose, huggable, and often fearless charm. Their humor is also mature and truthful, touching upon sex, class, and politics, while being entirely accessible and subtle. I see no reason why children should not share the fun. Everyone can find a solid case of belly laughs here. All-purpose clowning, which in this case consists of anything from physical comedy and mime to word games, seems alive and well. And that's a very nice thing indeed.