The Lapsburgh Layover
nytheatre.com review by Stephen Cedars
September 8, 2011
Existing somewhere between immersive installation and extravagant vaudeville, The Lapsburgh Layover operates as broad comedy developed by artists with a firm grasp of theatrical perspective. To describe the show too specifically is to rob potential audience of its effect—suffice it to say that, once you've bought your ticket, you're now on an international flight that's made a stopover in a backwards Eastern European country whose residents plan to entertain you. Some of what transpires, these citizens control, some of it they don't, but most of the fun relies on our appreciation of the layered storytelling, and the hijinks it allows for.
Which is not to make the experience seem too intellectual—on the contrary, it's delightfully dumb, with all sorts of bawdiness, silliness, and stereotype. Conceived, written and acted by The Berserker Residents and directed by Oliver Butler, its construction is meticulous and nuanced, but that integrity serves mainly as effective context to create a lot of comedy. What's perhaps most interesting is that the tropes—imperfect English through thick Slavic accents, narcissistic divas past their prime, men dressed as ladies—suggest the stylings of sketch or stand-up, while the show's structure indicates how fully-considered were the company's decisions. It maintains their playful spontaneous boisterousness, but it's also an actual play with momentum and rhythm.
Maybe that rhythm isn't sufficiently engaging to support the show's full 90 minutes, but the density of the jokes, the irony, and the self-awareness don't exactly bore. And all four performers each offer their own array of memorable tomfoolery, mainly through their firm commitment to the characters despite the jokey nature of pretty much everything around them. They use the entire space as their playground (and they would, of course, since on some level this is all just entertainment for us weary passengers), occasionally performing characters themselves, always with an eye firmly on their audience, and while these levels don't necessarily mean anything profound, they are another element well-exploited by a smart, funny troupe.
I apologize again for my lack of specificity, but I won't be accused of spoiling all the fun. And no matter how substantial the context of the show is, you'd certainly have to be a grump not to be chuckling through at least some portion of this multifarious romp. The Berserker Residents seem perfectly happy to put the comedy front and center in their show, and considering that the comedy's pretty good, it might be you're overdue for a brief respite in Lapsburgh yourself.