And It Feels So Good!
nytheatre.com review by Matt Roberson
September 23, 2009
Now, perhaps more than ever, humanity finds itself crying out for that one thing John Lennon said we would need: love. Men need it. Women need it. Yes, even our pets. You know who else needs love? Clowns. Clowns need love too, and perhaps none more so than the three performers of And It Feels So Good!, who'll stop at nothing to taste Cupid's poison. By the end of this night of rapid-fire gags, these clowns have tried everything from seduction and burlesque to belligerence to, yes, nudity. None of it ever really works, but then again, if it did, they'd be Brad Pitt and not a trio of circus clowns.
Created and performed by comedy trio Happy Hour, And It Feels So Good! is an assemblage of short scenes and physical gags, pulled together to tell the story of three earnest clowns in search of love. If there is a primary story line in this piece, it centers on an abbreviated Romeo and Juliet, told here with more than a dash of liberal interpretation. It's nonetheless a funny version, complete with a dwarf king, a John Hughes-inspired soundtrack, and a very creative way of making running in place look more believable. Quickly, though, the three abandon Romeo and Juliet, making one wonder what the Shakespeare play is doing here in the first place. Whatever the reason, with the play out the way, the night becomes a string of short sketches and bits, bonded together by the three clowns' earnest quest for acceptance.
The thin-framed, Gallagher-haired Ambrose Martos has some pretty interesting pieces in this show. His video act is not only hilarious and entertaining, but wrapped with a surprise that goes a long way in supporting the theme of the night. In another act, Martos finds himself trapped in a birdcage, with all the appetites of man and yet none of the hands to grab them. It's a thoughtful, sophisticated piece that goes beyond funny, leaving me to think more of Beckett than Bozo. Matthew Morgan sweats and climbs his way to what has to be the crowd's favorite act of the night. Appearing as, to quote A Christmas Story, "a deranged Easter bunny," Morgan forces himself into the audience, leaving no one safe (or dry), and everyone laughing. The surprisingly graceful Mark Gindick, who in the finale proves himself to be the only member of Happy Hour with a gym membership, spends most of the evening playing the part of the lovable friend who always comes up just shy in love. In the end, Gindick's performance is the most authentic, carrying with it the strongest impression once with curtain falls.
To be sure, And It Feels So Good!, while missing the overall cohesion one would expect from performers with the resumes of Happy Hour, is still a very funny show. It is also engaging, and at times, wonderfully confrontational. "Kissing Booth," a well-crafted piece that attempts to coax an audience member into smooching with the cast, is a risk-filled example of this. The piece has an end, but not nearly as satisfying a one if the audience refuses to play its part too (on this night, lucky for us, one brave woman did).
So while it's probably a good thing that not all productions encourage ticket holders to make out with the cast (I'm sure Patti LuPone's contract says something about this), I'm happy to know that in the middle of a failing economy and endless wars, there are some that do.