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Party Clown of the Rich and Famous & The Hungry Mind Buffet

Theatrical flotsam and jetsam are uneasily combined into an entertaining, if uneven, evening.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

William Broderick and Lissa Moira in Moira’s “The Colonel and the Woman Take Tea in the Rubble,” part of “The Hungry Mind Buffet” at Theater for the New City (Jonathan Slaff)

There’s so much fascinating material in Party Clown of the Rich and Famous and its companion compendium of four short works, The Hungry Mind Buffet that it pains me that the works aren’t presented with classier production values, unfortunately a reality in cash-strapped Off-Broadway presentations.  Even so, the evening offers much to savor.

Stanley Baker, the eponymous Clown, enters to the pop tune “Celebration,” dressed in a shiny jacket and handing out glow tubes to a reluctant-to-be-roused audience, some of whom finally acquiesce in a giggly kick line.

Baker’s stories are an x-ray of a celebrity-crazed, over-indulgent society as seen from the lower depths of the acting profession:  masked and costumed impersonation performers and event entertainers working for a troupe called Le Frou Frou, a bunch of dancers, singers, mimes and actors who traveled widely.

Stanley Baker in a scene from “Party Clown of the Rich and Famous” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Jonathan Slaff)

His tales of getting caught up in this troupe include meeting the incredibly untalented guy who would become the leader of the hugely successful Beastie Boys.

After being noticed as a tuxedoed rabbit in the Fifth Avenue Easter Parade, he was invited by the one and only Salvador Dalí to entertain at a private party at the now-defunct Trader Vic’s (hilariously mispronounced by Dalí).

Although Baker was stiffed by the eccentric artist, the anecdote proves quite durable as does Baker’s bizarre story of his job at the mansion of a rich, perverted Long Island finance mogul who threw a sex party to end all sex parties, which he describes in explicit detail.

Stanley Baker in a scene from “Party Clown of the Rich and Famous” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Jonathan Slaff)

Actors, dancers, drag performers and strippers aided and abetted the sexual frolics.  Baker came as a Pakistani porn seller, then a stereotype and now, more than a tad insulting.  The host dressed as Hugh Hefner!  This Hefner actually transformed his backyard into a replica of the tawdry back streets of Bangkok.

His nickname, “the Human TV” is illustrated by his absorbing tale of being a tiny cog in the party machine for the gala opening of the Trump Tower.  Donning a frame in the form of a TV screen, he approached the rich and famous party guests, including Trump, himself, and is, himself, confronted in a playfully sexual manner by the Playboy Playmate of the Year who wanted to “fool around with his knobs.”

His experiences include going head to head with Bob Hope wearing a Bob Hope head mask and confronting Mayor Koch while costumed as his exaggerated double.

Baker’s social commentary is subtle yet pointed.  Clearly his viewpoint allowed him much time for contemplation and observation cleverly revealed in his Party Clown.

After intermission The Hungry Mind Buffet, four short pieces, the first The Afterdeath, a fifteen minute mini-opera by Peter Dizozza (who also played the piano accompaniment), directed by Lissa Moira.

Based on a portion of Dante’s Inferno, this three-character work follows a pair of lovers (Alisa Ermolaev and Jonathan Fox Powers, talented singers) who are murdered by the lady’s older husband (William Broderick, a fine-voiced, reliable performer).  The music is stirring and underlines the drama of the lovers’ journey to hell, haunted by a ghostly figure (Broderick).

The Colonel and the Woman Take Tea in the Rubble, written and directed by Moira is a colorful morality tale of the exigencies of war.  Colonel Onliev (Broderick), accompanied by Lieutenant Alexei (Fox Powers), find a glamorously bedecked older lady (Moira, walking a fine line between melodrama and seriousness) who serves them tea with unexpected results.

William Broderick, Amelia Sasson, Susan Mitchell and Alisa Ermolaev in a scene from Georgia James’ “Yum,” part of “The Hungry Mind Buffet” at Theater for the New City (Jonathan Slaff)

Yum, written by Georgia James and directed by Moira, is a satire on “healthy” eating.  The snobby Broderick looks down on the food choices of Amelia Sasson (charming), gleefully chowing down on a hamburger and fries served by a bewitchingly sassy waitress (Ermolaev).  Susan Mitchell, dressed in colorful elegance, strolls about playing the violin, a musical commentary on the playlet, including Tchaikovsky and assorted pop tunes in her diverse, tearoom repertoire.  Aside from being a fine musician she is a good actor, too.

The only sour note in this Buffet is Trips Out, written, directed and “starring” Richard West whose musings on morality, ecology and the deity are delivered in a gruff manner that is off-putting.  The fact that he just sits at a table reading his script doesn’t help.  The material has merit even if the performance doesn’t.

Perhaps all these works, long and short, cover too much and don’t exactly mesh as a single whole, but the artists involved are dedicated and interesting.

Party Clown of the Rich and Famous/The Hungry Mind Buffet (through June 16, 2024)

Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-254-1109 or visit http://www.theaterforthenewcity.net

Running time: two hours and 15 minutes including one intermission

Theatrical flotsam and jetsam are uneasily combined into an entertaining, if uneven, evening.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About Joel Benjamin (562 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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